Sister ships visit in same week

The Manitowoc navigated up the Grand River in front of Waterfront Stadium during the Coast Guard Festival’s Rolling Stones tribune band concert Aug. 2. The freighter had a load of slag for Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island.

Grand Haven received five cargoes in the past week.

Friday evening, Grand River Navigation’s motor vessel Manitowoc came in with a load of slag for Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island.

On Sunday night, Grand River’s Calumet arrived in port with a split cargo of slag. First, it unloaded at D&M, and by Monday morning it had shifted to the Verplank dock in Ferrysburg to discharge the remainder of its cargo.

The Calumet was gone shortly after dawn.

Later in the morning, Lower Lakes Towing’s motor vessel Cuyahoga came in to port with a load of trap rock for Verplank’s. By evening, it had departed for a northern Lake Huron port.

Early Wednesday morning, Port City’s articulated tug/barge Bradshaw McKee/Commander called on the St. Marys Cement terminal to discharge a partial cargo of cement.

The Calumet and Manitowoc are fleetmates and sister ships. They have a third near-sister ship, the Robert S. Pierson, which was in port two weeks ago. Getting to see all three of these vessels within a week is impressive.

These three vessels were built in the 1970s during a time when companies that operated the large thousand-foot vessels on the Great Lakes opted to build smaller ships that were able to navigate narrow rivers.

The Calumet, Manitowoc and Pierson are the definition of River Class vessels on the Great Lakes. With a length of 630 feet, beam of 68 feet, and a depth of 36 feet, 11 inches, these three vessels are nearly identical. The Manitowoc (built as Paul Thayer) and Calumet (William R. Roesch) were built in 1973. The Pierson (Wolverine) followed a year later. 

Originally, all three ships were to be managed by Kinsman Marine Transit, but during construction, the Wolverine was transferred over to the Oglebay Norton Co.’s Columbia Transportation Division.

The Thayer and Roesch joined the Oglebay Norton fleet in 1975. In 1994, the two vessels were renamed – the Thayer became the Earl W. Oglebay and the Roesch became David Z. Norton.

In 2006, Oglebay Norton sold the Wolverine, Oglebay and Norton to the Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Co., which ended Oglebay Norton’s time as a shipping company on the Great Lakes. 2007 saw the Wolverine sail with its same name, while the other two ran with shortened names of Earl W. and David Z. The vessels were operated by Lower Lakes Transportation during this time under a time charter agreement with Wisconsin & Michigan that included an option to buy the vessels.

Grand River Navigation, the American affiliate of Lower Lakes, exercised the option to purchase the three vessels in early 2008. The Earl W. and David Z. were renamed Manitowoc and Calumet, respectively, while the Wolverine was resold to Lower Lakes Towing, registered under the Canadian flag and renamed Robert S. Pierson.

Today, it is much more common to see the Calumet and Manitowoc in West Michigan because they trade between American ports, while the Pierson is typically on Lake Ontario for most of the shipping season.

We should see the Kaye E. Barker at Verplank’s sometime today.

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