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Grand Haven's port heats up

Samuel Hankinson/Ships Log • Apr 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM

After a relatively quiet start to the month, the port of Grand Haven received three cargoes in quick succession this past week.

The first vessel activity of the week occurred Thursday afternoon, when Grand River Navigation’s articulated tug/barge Defiance/Ashtabula finally departed from Verplank’s. The Andrie tug Barbara Andrie came down from Muskegon to assist the duo out of port.

I am unsure what caused this tug/barge to stay in port so long, but what’s important is that they are out sailing again after spending almost two weeks in town.

The next day, Port City Marine’s articulated tug/barge Prentiss Brown/St. Marys Challenger came in with a load of cement for the St. Marys Cement terminal in Ferrysburg.

A few hours behind the Challenger was Pere Marquette Shipping’s articulated tug/barge Undaunted/Pere Marquette 41, laden with slag. They tied up at the Verplank dock to discharge and were gone later in the day.

The last boat of the week came in under the cover of darkness, early Saturday morning. It was the Joseph L. Block, delivering the first cargo of the season to Meekoff’s D&M on Harbor Island, just upstream from the power plant. The Block was making its first visit of the season.

The Block departed around daybreak Saturday, and the Challenger was gone by early afternoon.

The Challenger and PM41 have already visited so far this season, so I’ll talk about the history of the Block for this article.

It was built in 1976 by Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Joseph Leopold Block, the person the ship is named after, became Inland Steel’s vice president in 1927 and then ascended to president in 1953. He was later the CEO of Inland and also chairman of the board.

The vessel measures 728 feet long, 78 feet wide and 45 feet deep. It’s powered by two GM EMD 20-645-E7 diesel engines that are rated at 7,200 bhp and allow the ship to travel at speeds of up to 17.3 mph.

We have been seeing the Block in port since last November as it is filling in for its fleetmate, the Wilfred Sykes. The Sykes is usually the ship that services Grand Haven, but it was forced to lay up early last season due to repairs and is still in lay-up. Once the Sykes re-enters service, the Block will no longer visit our port, as the smaller Sykes is a much better ship to handle the Grand Haven slag loads.

The Block is expected back this weekend to deliver another cargo of slag, and that might be the last time we see it in Grand Haven for a while. The Sykes should be out sailing in the coming weeks.

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