No holiday for shipping labor

The Great Republic comes into Grand Haven’s port Monday night.

The port of Grand Haven was busy over the Labor Day weekend, as four vessels visited in three days.

Algoma Central Corp.’s motor vessel Algoma Innovator called on the Verplank Dock in Ferrysburg on Saturday morning with a load of salt from Goderich, Ontario. The Innovator departed Verplank’s and backed out to Lake Michigan in the afternoon.

On Labor Day, we saw three freighters visit our port. Grand River Navigation’s motor vessel Manitowoc was inbound before dawn with a load of slag for Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island. It had departed by mid-morning.

In the afternoon, Pere Marquette Shipping’s articulated tug/barge Undaunted/Pere Marquette 41 called on Verplank’s to discharge a load of stone. Before sunset, the Great Republic of the Great Lakes Fleet arrived in port and joined the PM41 at Verplank’s. The Great Republic was also delivering a stone load. Both vessels departed overnight.

This marks the second time this season that the Great Republic has visited our port. Before this season, it had never visited under its current name, and the last time it was here was during the 2004-05 season.

The vessel was built in 1981 as the American Republic at Bay Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the American Steamship Co. Under ASC’s operation, it was primarily used to carry iron ore cargoes to the Republic Steel mill on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cuyahoga River is very narrow and shallow, limiting the size of vessels that could navigate up and down it. Ships that were much too large to go up the Cuyahoga would deliver cargoes of iron ore to the Lorain Pellet Terminal in Lorain, Ohio, where the ore was loaded onto smaller vessels for delivery to the Republic mill in Cleveland.

The Republic mill was the namesake of the American Republic. While the mill ended up changing ownership several times after the vessel’s launch, the Republic continued to shuttle ore on the Cuyahoga River during a typical season.

The Lorain Pellet Terminal equipment was moved to Cleveland’s waterfront in the 2000s, which made the distance of the ore shuttle significantly shorter.

The American Republic was under a long-term lease by American Steamship, which expired in the spring of 2011. The freighter 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 Algoma Innovator’s delivery on the last day of August was the final cargo for the month and our 56th of the season. Last season, we had received 55 cargoes through August, and this number also represents the five-year average for the month of August.

The five-year average for the month of September is 66 cargoes. As we head into the fall months, it is going to be interesting to see what pace vessel traffic continues at.

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