Ships Log: Great Lakes shipping season begins

Welcome to the 2013/2014 season for our port of Grand Haven and our 12th year writing this column. The Soo Locks and the St. Lawrence Seaway are now open opened so the Great Lakes shipping season is now fully underway.
Apr 2, 2013


The articulated tug barge Prentiss Brown/St. Mary’s Conquest opened our season on Friday morning, March 29. It brought a load of cement for the St. Mary’s Cement Terminal in Ferrysburg. This same vessel combination opened our season last year on March 23rd.

The St. Mary’s Conquest is managed by Port City Marine Services of Muskegon, while the tug is owned and operated by Port Tug Inc., also of Muskegon. The Conquest was built in 1937 by the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company of Manitowoc, Wis., as the tanker Red Crown.

The Red Crown was 465.25 feet long, with a beam of 55.25 feet and a depth of 25.5 feet. It was renamed the Amoco Indiana in 1962, and ceased operations for Amoco Oil Company in 1982. Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay, Wis., converted it to a cement-carrying barge in 1987. It now measures 437 feet, 6 inches long, 55 feet wide and 28 feet deep with a capacity of 8500 tons.

The tug Prentiss Brown was built in 1969 by Gulfport Shipbuilding of Port Arthur, Texas. It was christened the Betty Culbreath and renamed the Michaela McAllister when it was acquired by McAllister Towing and Transportation, an off Lakes firm. It was subsequently purchased by Port City Tug and completely refitted at Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

This tug had a raised pilot house atop a cylindrical column. Its length is 123 feet, 5 inches, and its breadth is 30 feet with a depth of 19 feet. It is diesel powered, and is propelled by two GM Electromotive engines driving a single propeller.

For new readers, the following is an orientation to the local docks. As you come up river from the lighthouse, the first dock on the right is Government Basin. This dock serves the U.S. Coast Guard Station Grand Haven and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Next is the coal dock for the Board of Light and Power Sims plant on Harbor Island. Just beyond the power plant dock is Meekhof’s D&M dock, which has piles of various bulk materials.

On the left a little farther up river is the Construction Aggregates Dock. This facility was our only shipping dock and it is closed indefinitely.

Around the curve of Harbor Island, the rest of the docks are on the north Ferrysburg side of the river at that point. The first is an old oil and gasoline tanker terminal, which is no longer used. The oil and gas terminal is now served by a pipeline.

Next is Verplank’s dock with multiple piles of materials on both sides of the large silos that are the St. Mary’s Cement terminal.

For those who have not obtained their copy of “Know Your Ships,” there is a supply available at The Bookman. If you are interested in boats on the Great Lakes, this annual publication is a must have.

For those interested in Great Lakes shipwrecks, Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates is presenting their 15th annual Mysteries and Histories Beneath the Inland Seas show on April 20 at the Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland. Visit for more information.

We are tentatively expecting the Manitowoc at the Board of Light and Power plant on Harbor Island on April 6.

— By Dick Fox, "Ship's Log" columnist


Say no to new taxes

I'm ready to see some Great Lakes Ships after this long and cold winter, are you?

Say no to new taxes

Anyone know what radio frequency the freighters use?




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