Saginaw River 2014 Shipping Season Wrap-Up
As always, I began the 2014 shipping season optimistic, hoping to see an increase in vessel passages and in the number of cargos being delivered to the Saginaw River. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. After a numbers stabilization in 2013, the downward spiral continued for yet another shipping season in 2014. The following is a look back at what took place along the banks of the Saginaw River during this past year:
The 2014 shipping season officially started on April 29th, with the arrival of the tug Olive L. Moore and her barge, Lewis J. Kuber. The pair called on the Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, starting the season almost two weeks later than the 2013 open. The worst ice conditions seen in many years on the Great Lakes was to blame for this late start, and it was a start that was very difficult for most companies to recover from. The 2014 season came to a close on December 30th, when the steamer Alpena, departed the Lafarge Cement Terminal in Essexville after unloading cement powder. This was eleven days later than the 2013 close, for a season lasting 245 days, four shorter than in 2013. For 2014, there were a total of 110 commercial vessel passages, 29 fewer than the previous season. These passages were by 31 different vessels, representing fourteen different companies. This is a decrease of two different vessels and three companies as compared to last years numbers.
Looking at some of the other statistics from the 2014 season, the same 16 docks receiving cargos in 2013, all saw cargo deliveries again in 2014. The dock that saw the most traffic in 2014 was the Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, seeing 27 vessel deliveries. Coming in second was the Wirt Stone Dock in Bay City, with 19 cargo deliveries, and the Sargent Dock in Zilwaukee next, with 13 cargo deliveries. These three docks combined accounted for 48% of the vessel deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2014. Two of the top three, Bay Aggregates and Bay City Wirt, were top three for 2013 as well, with Sargent taking the third spot from the Consumers Energy dock in Essexville for 2014. In all, accounting for split cargos by some vessels that unloaded at two different docks on the same visit, there were 121 deliveries to the various docks along the Saginaw River. This is 51 fewer than in 2013.
The workhorse of the Saginaw River, without question, continues to be the tug Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Lewis J. Kuber. This pair made 41 trips to the river, which is seven fewer trips than they made in 2013. This is 37 more than the next highest visitors, Manitowoc and Algorail, both with seven passages each, followed by Algoway with six. This is the eighth year in a row that the Olive L. Moore – Lewis J. Kuber have had the most passages. Over this eight year period, they have visited the Saginaw River a total of 325 times!
Again in 2014 Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation blew all of the other fleets out of the water when it came to total visits by a fleet, logging 59 vessel passages. Even though this was 22 less than 2013, this was still the eighth year in a row for LLT/GRN in the #1 position, accounting for 49% of the vessel passages on the Saginaw River. The next busiest fleet was Algoma Central Marine with 13 passages, and then in third was the American Steamship Company with 11. These three companies accounted for 69% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2014.
There were a few vessels that were visitors to the Saginaw River in 2013, that did not make a return visit in 2014, namely the American Century, Buffalo, Walter J. McCarthy, Jr., Sloman Hermes, Calumet, Joe Thompson Jr. – Joseph H. Thompson, Thalassa Desgangnes, the tug Karen Andrie and her tank barge, Endeavour, tugs Champion, and Mary E. Hannah. The list of boats that were not visitors in 2013, but made a return to the Saginaw River in 2014 were: American Mariner, John J. Boland, Robert S. Pierson, Everlast – Norman McLeod, and Leonard M – Huron Spirit. Four vessels made their first ever deliveries to the Saginaw River: Harbour Feature, Harbour Fountain, YM Saturn, and Larsholmen. The tugs Manitou, Tenacious, Kimberly Anne, and Thomas R. Morrish were also visitors. The USCG Cutters Hollyhock and Alder also made visits to work aids to navigation in the Saginaw River Entrance Channel.
There were a number of other notable stories during 2014. Ryba Marine Construction crews continued maintenance dredging of the Saginaw River shipping channel, working both the upper and lower river. The tug Kimberly Anne, barges, and dredging equipment from Dean Marine and Excavating arrived in December, docking in Bay City’s Liberty Harbor Marina, where they will begin maintenance dredging there in the spring. Finally and interestingly, after receiving a total of eighteen deliveries of coal in 2013, the Consumers Energy dock in Essexville only received two, both at the beginning of the season, during the entire 2014 shipping season.
The upcoming 2015 season should prove to be an interesting one. If the season doesn’t get slowed by excessive ice again, look for an earlier start to the season. Also be on the lookout for some vessels that have not visited in some time, as well as a few new vessels that have never made up trip up the Saginaw River. Maintenance dredging will also continue.
Here is wishing everyone a safe and prosperous shipping season in 2015!