Saginaw River - Shipping Season Report – 2017
After recording disappointing numbers for the 2016 shipping season, commercial vessel passage numbers for the Saginaw River looked like they would be much the same during the first few months of 2017. Later season numbers rebounded nicely however, and the increased traffic, coupled with more tonnage carried on each vessel per load, places this season in the record books as being one of the better ones over the past few years. The following is a look back at what took place along the banks of the Saginaw River during this past year:
The 2017 shipping season officially started on March 30th, with the arrival of the tug Spartan and her tank barge, Spartan II. The pair called on the Port Fisher Dock in Bay City to start the season, eleven days later than the 2016 season opener. The 2017 season came to a close on an icy December 23rd, when the tug G.L. Ostrander and her cement barge, Integrity, called on the Lafarge Cement Dock in Essexville with the last inbound cargo of the season. This was five days later than the 2016 close, for a season lasting 268 days, six days shorter than last year. For 2017, there were a total of 133 commercial vessel passages. That is 20 more than the previous season. These passages were made by 31 different vessels, representing thirteen different companies, an increase of three more unique vessels and one less company, as compared to the 2016 numbers.
Looking at some of the other statistics from the 2017 season, there were 14 docks receiving cargos this season. This number was unchanged from last year, but the docks receiving product however, did change. The North Star Fertilizer Dock in Essexville did not receive any deliveries by boat in 2016, but recorded three during the 2017 season. On the other side, The Port Fisher Fertilizer dock did not see any vessel deliveries in 2017, after receiving one delivery in 2016. The dock seeing the most traffic in 2017 was the Port Fisher/Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, seeing 34 vessel deliveries. This was twelve more deliveries than during the 2016 season. Coming in second was the Wirt Stone Dock in Bay City, with 22 cargo deliveries, which was three fewer than the previous season. In a tie for third place was the Wirt Stone Dock in Saginaw and the Consumers Energy Dock in Essexville, each with 17 cargo deliveries. These four docks accounted for 57% of all vessel deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2017. The top two docks, Bay Aggregates and Bay City Wirt, have now been the two busiest docks for the past six years running. In all, accounting for split cargos by some vessels, unloading at two different docks on the same visit, there were 159 deliveries to the various docks along the Saginaw River. This is 16 more actual dock deliveries than during the 2016 season.
For the eleventh year in a row, the tug Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Lewis J. Kuber, made the most trips to the Saginaw River, this season logging 26 visits. This is one more than 2016. The vessel with the second most trips to the Saginaw River, logging 16 trips, was Interlake Steamship Company’s tug Dorothy Ann, paired with the self-unloading barge Pathfinder. The top two were followed by the Sam Laud, with 9 passages, then the Walter J. McCarthy, Jr. and Algoway, each with 8 visits.
Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation, as they have for many consecutive years now, logged the most visits by a fleet in 2017, with 36 vessel passages. This was eight fewer than 2016, but was still just good enough for the eleventh year in a row for LLT/GRN to be in the #1 position, accounting for 23% of the vessel passages on the Saginaw River. The next busiest fleet, and falling just short of having the most visits, was the American Steamship Company with 35 vessel passages. This represents an increase of 19 more deliveries for ASC, as compared to 2016. Third place went to the Interlake Steamship Company with 23 passages, an increase of seven for last season. These three companies accounted for 59% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2017.
There were a number of vessels that were visitors to the Saginaw River in 2016, that did not make a delivery here in 2017, with those vessels being the Algorail, Robert S. Pierson, Saginaw, Mississagi, Sjard, Leonard M. – Huron Spirit, Harbour Fashion, Happy Ranger, and Floretgract. The list of boats that were not visitors in 2016, but visited the Saginaw River in 2017 were: American Mariner, Indiana Harbor, Sam Laud, Michipicoten, Great Republic, Manitoulin, H.R. Constellation, BBC Alberta, BBC Campana, BBC Elbe, BBC Volga, and the tug Sharon M I. The BBC boats, H.R. Constellation, and Sharon M I made their first ever deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2017. The tugs Manitou and Gregory J. Busch worked the Saginaw River in 2017, assisting vessels in turning, making their dock, and ice breaking. The USCG Cutter Hollyhock also made visits to work aids to navigation in the Saginaw River Entrance Channel.
There were a few other notable stories during the 2017 season. The visits by the vessel Great Republic, were the first by this vessel under her new name and the colors of the Great Lakes Fleet. Her last visit was in 2008 as the American Republic, under the colors of the American Steamship Company. The vessel Manitoulin is also an interesting new, first time visitor. She is a combination of new and old, having a self-unloading bow section, built new in 2015, and mated to the 1991 built stern section of the saltwater vessel Lalandia Swan. Another story of note was the continued arrival of wind turbine components and blades, brought in to the Port Fisher Dock in Bay City, by foreign flagged cargo ships. This was the second season in a row for this new cargo to the Saginaw River. Port Fisher has steadily made improvements to their facility, which has allowed for new and more diverse cargos to be delivered to dock there.
The upcoming 2018 season will hopefully be a safe and profitable one for everyone involved. Hopefully we will see all of our regular vessels again during the upcoming season, as well as some new boats, or boats that have not visited in some time. We will also see if there is any maintenance dredging to be done on the Saginaw River this season, as there was none undertaken during 2017.