Saginaw River 2011 Shipping Season Wrap-Up
With high hopes at the beginning of the shipping season for a rebound from the declining number of vessel passages and cargos from the past few years, It was my feeling that 2011 would be a turning point on the Saginaw River. Looking at the Great Lakes overall, commercial shipping numbers and cargo tonnages are up from last year, but with 2012 now on the calendar, and 2011 behind us, this did not prove true here. The following is a look back at what happened along the banks of the Saginaw River this past season.
The 2011 shipping season officially started on April 12th, with the arrival of the tug Samuel De Champlain and her cement barge, Innovation, who unloaded their cargo at the Lafarge Cement Terminal in Carrollton. The end of the season came when the Stephen B. Roman departed the Essroc Cement dock in Essexville on December 21st. For the year, there were a total of 138 commercial vessel passages, by 26 different boats, for a season lasting 254 days. These numbers are once again a decrease over the previous season. For 2010, there were seven more vessel passages, from three more boats, and the season was six days longer.
Looking at some of the other statistics from the 2011 season, 16 different docks along the Saginaw River saw cargo deliveries. This was the same as last year. The dock that saw the most traffic was the Bay Aggregates dock in Bay City, seeing 29 deliveries, up three from 2010. Coming in second was the Bay City Wirt Stone dock, with 14 cargo deliveries, which is down eight from last years total of 22. The third place dock was the Lafarge Stone dock in Saginaw, with 13 deliveries. These three docks accounted for 39% of the cargo delivered to the Saginaw River in 2011. The busiest dock from 2010, the Saginaw Wirt Stone dock, came in eighth in 2011 with 8 cargos, down from 27 the year before. In all, accounting for split cargos for some vessels that unloaded at two different docks, there were 145 deliveries to the various docks.
The workhorse of the Saginaw River has to be the tug Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Lewis J. Kuber. This pair made 52 trips to the river, 21 more trips than they made in 2010, and 42 more than the next highest visitor, the Stephen B. Roman, who had 11. Third place was actually a tie between the Algorail and Manitowoc, who each made 9 passages. Manistee came in fifth with 7. This is the fifth year in a row that the Olive L. Moore – Lewis J. Kuber have had the most passages.
There was no contest for the most represented fleet for 2011. Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation blew the other fleets out of the water, logging 75 vessel passages. This was the fifth year in a row for LLT/GRN in the #1 position. They had 22 more deliveries than in 2010 and accounted for 55% of the vessel passages on the Saginaw River. The next busiest fleet was Algoma Central Marine with 15 passages, and then in third was Essroc Canada, Inc. with 11. These three companies accounted for a whopping 74% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2011.
There were a number of vessels seen on the Saginaw River in 2010, but not making it here in 2011. These boats were American Mariner, Walter J. McCarthy, Jr., CSL Tadoussac, Herbert C. Jackson, Robert S. Pierson, Maumee, Cuyahoga, G.L. Ostrander/Integrity, Evans McKeil/Metis, and Joseph H Thompson, Jr./Joseph H. Thompson. Sadly, we will never see again the Maumee, as she is now at IMS in Port Colborne, ON awaiting the cutting torch. Vessels that we did not see in 2010, but made calls on the Saginaw River in 2011 were American Century, Stephen B. Roman, James Norris, Spartan/Spartan II, and Cleveland/Cleveland Rocks. It was good to see the James Norris one last time, as she too is awaiting scrapping at IMS, tied up alongside Maumee. A number of tugs: Kurt Luedtke, Karl Luedtke, Ann Marie, Krista S, Tenacious, Kathy Lynn, and Gregory J. Busch were active on the Saginaw River, and the research vessels Channel Cat and Chinook were also seen.
Of the other stories of 2011, one of the biggest would be no deliveries of cement clinker to the Essroc dock in Essexville. This is the first year I can remember that there was not at least one clinker cargo delivered there. In 2010, a cement powder unloader was installed and put into service by the end of the season, and in 2011, all cargos came as powder and delivered by the Stephen B. Roman. We are still awaiting the arrival of the decommissioned navel destroyer USS Edson, which will be docked just below the Independence Bridge in Bangor Township and opened to the public for tours. Hopefully after many delays and large amounts of red tape having been cut through, she will arrive sometime in 2012! Dredging of the Saginaw River took place again in 2011 with Ryba Marine Construction working the upper river during the early season, and Luedtke Engineering working the lower river and Saginaw Bay later in the year. Water levels and shoaling were not as much of an issue this season as they have been in recent years, and thankfully it looks like more dredging is on tap in 2012 as Ryba has been staging their equipment in the old Defoe Shipbuilding slip just below the Liberty Bridge in Bay City. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock worked Aids to Navigation in the Saginaw Bay Entrance Channel both during the spring and fall and the SCS Greyfox made her usual appearance during July, giving tours and cruises during the week of the Forth of July.
Hopefully 2012 will bring increased traffic and more product to the docks along the banks of the Saginaw River. In 2005 there were 347 passages. This number has decreased every year since, down to the 2011 total of 138. Will this year be the rebound year? Time will tell.
Here is wishing everyone a safe and prosperous shipping season in 2012!
The information contained in the report is as accurate and error free as possible, but is possible there may have been a vessel or dock delivery missed as tracking vessels for the entire season is not an easy or exact science. Thank you for taking the time to read this year end report. I will see everyone again in 2012 for my eighth season of logging commercial vessel movements on the Saginaw River.
Thanks for you support,
Todd A. Shorkey
Saginaw River Images