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Ashtabula lone visitor to port

By Samuel Hankinson • Apr 11, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Grand Haven received one cargo last week.

Saturday night, Grand River Navigation’s articulated tug/barge Defiance/Ashtabula crossed the pierheads just before sunset with a load of stone for the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg.

It appeared as if they had a wild ride down Lake Michigan, as they arrived in port with a fair amount of ice buildup.

The pair was still in port as of Tuesday afternoon for unspecified repairs.

The Defiance/Ashtabula have only visited Grand Haven a handful of times before, as a large portion of their career has been spent on saltwater.

The barge was built as the Erol Beker in 1982 at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in 1982 and the tug was built as the April T. Beker by Marinette Marine Corp in Marinette, Wisconsin, the same year. Upon completion, the pair departed the Great Lakes and began trading on the ocean for a subsidiary of Beker Industries.

In 1987, the barge was renamed the Mary Turner and the tug Beverly Anderson when Gulfcoast Transit Company took over ownership of them. That company became TECO (Tampa Electric) Ocean Shipping in 2002, and then TECO was sold off to the United Marine Group’s subsidiary U.S. United Ocean Services in 2007.

In 2011, Rand Logistics, the parent company of Grand River Navigation, purchased the pair and they sailed to the Great Lakes in the spring of 2012 for a refit. In fall 2012, the duo re-entered service and have been active since.

While this tug/barge combination won’t win any beauty contests, there are some interesting facts to point out about them.

The first is that while both vessels were built at shipyards on the Great Lakes, they were expected to spend the entirety of their careers on saltwater. When they returned, it was a homecoming of sorts. It’s also worth mentioning that the Ashtabula ended up getting refit for Great Lakes service at the same shipyard where it was built.

The second fact pertains to the history of the Ashtabula’s self-unloading boom. It’s actually from the 1924-built Joseph H. Frantz. The boom was preserved while the Frantz was scrapped at International Marine Salvage in 2005, and was loaded onto the Ashtabula when it arrived back on the Great Lakes.

The barge was originally built with an 80-foot unloading boom that was useful for a select few docks on the Gulf of Mexico. This was too small to trade with on the Great Lakes, hence the reason for the switch.

The Ashtabula is named after the river of the same name in the city of the same name in Ohio. The tug Defiance does not have a specific namesake.

In regards to future vessels, there is the possibility of a cement boat in the next week or so.

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