Shortly after midnight Saturday, Lower Lakes Towing’s self-unloading motor vessel Michipicoten arrived in port with a load of trap rock for the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg. Unloading was completed shortly after daybreak and the vessel backed out to Lake Michigan in the early morning sunlight.
Monday morning saw Interlake Steamship Co.’s Kaye E. Barker arrive with a load of stone for Verplank’s. The Barker was outbound to the lake by mid-morning.
The two vessels we had in port this week were fleetmates at one point. The Michipicoten is a former member of the Interlake fleet and is visiting for the first time this season.
The Michipicoten was built as the steamship Elton Hoyt II in 1952. Construction was started by Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point, Maryland, and the partially completed ship was towed up the Mississippi River to American Shipbuilding’s South Chicago yard, where assembly was completed.
The Hoyt entered service for Interlake later in 1952. It was lengthened in 1957 and fitted with a bow thruster in 1965. In 1980, the ship was converted to a self-unloader and a new bow thruster was installed.
Despite these modifications, the Hoyt was one of the smallest ships in Interlake’s fleet. This distinction meant that the Hoyt was usually the first vessel to go to layup if there was a lack of cargo. It spent time in layup for varying degrees of time during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Hoyt entered layup in Superior, Wisconsin, after the 2000 shipping season had concluded. In 2003, Lower Lakes Towing Ltd. purchased the Hoyt and reflagged it Canadian, then renamed it the Michipicoten after the river of the same name that flows into Lake Superior.
The size of the Michipicoten is ideal for the ports that Lower Lakes serviced. In fact, one of the vessel’s first trips for Lower Lakes was a split load between Muskegon and Grand Haven.
Today, the Michipicoten’s bread-and-butter run is between Marquette, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The ship loads iron ore in Marquette and delivers it to the Essar Steel plant in Ontario. The Michipicoten has been dubbed “The Essar Express” because of how frequently it makes this trip.
Currently, the Michipicoten measures 698 feet long, 70 feet wide and 37 feet deep. It has a capacity of 22,300 tons. In 2011, the vessel was repowered with a MaK 6M32C diesel engine.
This weekend, we are expecting the Robert S. Pierson at the Verplank dock.