Grand Haven received three cargoes in the past week.

The articulated tug/barge Bradshaw McKee/Commander called on the St. Marys Cement terminal in Ferrysburg last Wednesday, departing for Lake Michigan the next afternoon.

VanEnkevort Tug & Barge’s unit Laura L. VanEnkevort/Joseph H. Thompson had arrived off Grand Haven and waited for the McKee/Commander to clear before coming in to unload at Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island. The Thompson was loaded with stone from Drummond Island. The pair was gone by Friday morning.

Saturday saw the steamship Wilfred Sykes deliver a load of slag to the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg.

The Commander and VanEnkevort represent the newest investments for U.S.-flagged fleets on the Great Lakes.

We have already seen the Commander visit our port several times this season. It was formerly an open deck bulk barge that was converted to a cement carrier last year.

The tug Laura L. VanEnkevort is new to the Great Lakes, having arrived from the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks ago. It was built in 1994 at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Mississippi, as the Sidney Candies for Otto Candies LLC. in 1998, it was sold to TECO Ocean Shipping and renamed Nadia Ramil. At that point, upgrades to the tug were made by adding a raised pilothouse. The tug was utilized to push the dry bulk barge Peggy Palmer, which was built on the Great Lakes in the 1980s. This tug/barge unit was a fleetmate of the Beverly Anderson/Mary Turner, which is now sailing the Great Lakes as the Defiance/Ashtabula. In 2009, TECO was sold and renamed U.S. United Ocean Services.

The Nadia Ramil was laid up in Tampa Bay starting some time in 2012. VanEnkevort Tug & Barge purchased the tug in 2019 and the vessel’s cabins were rebuilt by Tampa Ship LLC. Earlier this month, the renamed Laura L. VanEnkevort departed Tampa Bay for Toledo, Ohio.

The barge Joseph H. Thompson was originally built in 1944 as the C4 ocean-going cargo carrier Marine Robin. It was active in World War II and sailed across the Atlantic several times. After the war, the Marine Robin and many other mothballed cargo vessels were converted to Great Lakes bulk carriers as a result of high demand for iron ore during the Korean War.

The Thompson sailed as a powered vessel until laying up in 1982. Upper Lakes Towing purchased the vessel and converted it to a barge in 1985. The operation took place at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. A tug named Joseph H. Thompson Jr. was built using leftover steel from the barge conversion.

The Joe Thompson/Joe Jr. entered service in 1991 and sailed for Upper Lakes Towing until 2015, when the pair was bought by VanEnkevort Tug & Barge.

Last fall, VanEnkevort announced that Bay Shipbuilding Co. would be building them a new 740-foot barge.

The VanEnkevort arrived in Toledo a few weeks ago, where the Joseph H. Thompson/Joseph H. Thompson Jr. were waiting. The VanEnkevort mated with the Joseph H. Thompson, leaving the Joseph H. Thompson Jr. alone. VanEnkevort’s plan is to have the VanEnkevort push the Joseph H. Thompson (likely to be renamed at some point) and the Joseph H. Thompson Jr. (expected to be renamed Dirk VanEnkevort) push the new barge Michigan Trader upon its completion at some point next season.

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