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Great Republic makes rare visit

By Samuel Hankinson/Ships Log • Jun 5, 2019 at 11:00 AM

Grand Haven saw the arrivals of two vessels last week, one a frequent freighter and the other a rare visitor.

On Friday, the steamship Wilfred Sykes of Central Marine Logistics paid a visit to Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island. The Sykes unloaded a cargo of slag and was outbound to Lake Michigan in the afternoon. This was the seventh trip to Grand Haven for the Sykes this season.

After dark on Monday, Great Lakes Fleet’s self-unloading motor vessel Great Republic arrived in port with a load of stone for the D&M dock. It discharged through the night and was still in port as of Tuesday afternoon.

We have not seen the Great Republic in our port since the 2004-05 season. At that time, it was the American Republic of the American Steamship Co., the name and company the vessel sailed with since entering service in 1981. Construction of this vessel took place at Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

The Republic was specifically designed to navigate the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, and service the Republic Steel mill that was located at the head of the river. This steel mill was the namesake of the vessel. While the mill changed ownership several times, the Republic continued to shuttle iron ore on the Cuyahoga during a typical season, with occasional coal and stone loads to ports elsewhere on the Great Lakes.

The American Republic was under a long-term lease by American Steamship, which expired in the spring of 2011. The vessel spent the beginning of the season laid up in Toledo before departing in June with a new owner and new name of Great Republic.

The Great Republic is currently managed by Key Lakes Inc. of Duluth, Minnesota, and sails for the Great Lakes Fleet. It is the first GLF vessel to visit Grand Haven since 1998.

The Great Republic is an incredibly maneuverable ship. It is equipped with bow and stern thrusters, which are essential for river class ships, but it also boasts eight rudders and variable pitch propellers that are housed inside Kort Nozzles. The pitch of the propellers at a given time determines what rudders are to be utilized during navigation.

The freighter was built with its accommodations as far aft as possible, to allow for the best possible view during navigation of the narrow Cuyahoga River. Because of this, it can carry 1,000 more tons per trip than a vessel of similar size.

Today, the Great Republic stays busy in the coal and stone trades for GLF. It is a common sight just north of here, in Manistee, supplying coal to the power plants there, and still visits Cleveland from time to time with stone loads.

At the end of May, the port of Grand Haven has received 18 cargoes for the season. This is one less than a year ago and the same as our five-year average. Not including the Great Republic, six different vessels have called on Grand Haven so far.

We may see the Michipicoten and Kaye E. Barker at the Verplank dock this weekend.

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