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Familiar freighters visit Grand Haven

Sam Hankinson/Ships Log • Jan 16, 2019 at 11:00 AM

This past week we saw the appearance of two common visitors in the port of Grand Haven during the late-season rush.

Port City Marine’s articulated tug/barge Prentiss Brown/St. Marys Challenger arrived in port early Sunday morning with a partial load of cement for the St. Marys Cement terminal in Ferrysburg. The barge had unloaded in Chicago prior to its arrival in our port. By late afternoon, the duo was backing out to the lake.

The next day, the steamship Wilfred Sykes of Central Marine Logistics paid us a visit, bringing in another load of slag for Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island. The Sykes was inbound before daybreak and gone around mid-morning.

This brings the total number of visits for the Sykes on the season to 22.

The Brown/Challenger duo has made nine trips into port since beginning our season in March 2018.

Port City Marine of Muskegon operates two tug/barges that frequent our port. Currently, the pairings are the Prentiss Brown/St. Marys Challenger and the Bradshaw McKee/St. Marys Conquest.

The St. Marys Challenger was built in 1906 and was rebuilt for its present duty as a cement carrier during the 1966 season. In 2013, it was converted from a steamship to a barge. The St. Marys Conquest was originally constructed as a tanker in 1937 and converted to a cement-carrying barge in 1987.

For a number of years, the St. Marys Conquest was paired with the Bradshaw McKee when the tug was known as the Susan W. Hannah. The Prentiss Brown began pushing the Conquest in 2008 when the tug was purchased by Port City.

At the same time the St. Marys Challenger was being converted to a barge, the Bradshaw McKee was partially rebuilt at Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. When the Challenger re-entered service as a barge midway through the 2014 season, it was paired with the McKee. At some point during the 2014 season, the tugs switched barges to their present configuration.

Over the past year or so, Port City has been working to bring a third barge into their fleet, converting the former dry bulk barge Cleveland Rocks to a cement carrier at Bay Shipbuilding. Now known as the Commander, the barge left BayShip with the Bradshaw McKee in the notch this week. The barge will be delivering one or two loads of cement to Chicago before winter layup, and we should see it at the Ferrysburg terminal later on this year.

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