Week's lone cargo is from semi-rare visitor

The Michipicoten during a previous visit to Grand Haven.

The port of Grand Haven received one cargo this past week from a semi-rare visitor.

Lower Lakes Towing’s self-unloading motor vessel Michipicoten called on the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg on Sunday afternoon with a split load of trap rock and stone, loaded in Bruce Mines and Meldrum Bay, Ontario. The vessel was outbound for the lake before midnight.

It was the second visit of the season for the Michipicoten, a vessel that spends most of the shipping season on Lake Superior.

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 Co.’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, renaming 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 frequents the Essar Steel plant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, delivering loads of iron ore from Marquette, Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; and Superior, Wisconsin. 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.

Severe weather has been slamming the Great Lakes recently, making it hard to predict when we will get our next vessel in port.

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