Saginaw River 2015 Shipping Season Wrap-Up
After years of declining commercial vessel passages on the Saginaw River, it was encouraging to see an increase in commercial shipping traffic for the 2015 season. The following is a look back at what took place along the banks of the Saginaw River during this past year:
The 2015 shipping season officially started on April 9th, with the arrival of the tug Samuel de Champlain and her cement barge, Innovation. The pair called on the Lafarge Cement dock in Essexville, starting the season twenty days earlier than the 2014 season opener. The 2015 season came to a close on December 23rd, when Mississagi, departed the Sargent dock in Zilwaukee. This was seven days earlier than the 2014 close, for a season lasting 228 days. For 2015, there were a total of 132 commercial vessel passages. That is 22 more than the previous season. These passages were by 27 different vessels, representing thirteen different companies, a decrease of four different vessels and one less shipping company as compared to the 2014 numbers.
Looking at some of the other statistics from the 2015 season, there were 14 docks receiving cargos in 2015. This was two less than in 2014, as the GM dock in Saginaw, and the Bit-Mat dock in Bay City, did not receive any commercial vessel cargoes this season. The GM Dock typically received coal and the Bit-Mat dock liquid asphalt. The dock that saw the most traffic in 2015 was the Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, seeing 31 vessel deliveries, four more then 2014. Coming in second was the Wirt Stone Dock in Bay City, with 25 cargo deliveries, six more than the previous season, and the Wirt Stone Dock in Saginaw coming in third, with 22 cargo deliveries. These three docks accounted for 48% of all vessel deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2015. The top two docks, Bay Aggregates and Bay City Wirt, were top two for 2014 as well. In all, accounting for split cargos by some vessels that unloaded at two different docks on the same visit, there were 162 deliveries to the various docks along the Saginaw River. This is 41 more actual dock deliveries than in 2014.
Without question, the workhorse of the Saginaw River continues to be the tug Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Lewis J. Kuber. The pair made 55 trips to the river, which is fourteen more trips than they made in 2014, and the most visits in a single season they have ever made to the Saginaw River. This represents 47 more visits than the next highest visitor, Algoway, who had eight. Algorail and H Lee White both had seven passages each, followed by the tug G.L. Ostrander and her cement barge, Integrity, with six. This is the ninth year in a row that the Olive L. Moore – Lewis J. Kuber have had the most passages. Over this nine year period, they have visited the Saginaw River a total of 380 times!
Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation, as they have for a number of years now, logged the most visits by a fleet in 2015, with 63 vessel passages. This was four more than 2014, and was the ninth year in a row for LLT/GRN in the #1 position, accounting for 48% of the vessel passages on the Saginaw River. The next busiest fleet was the American steamship Company with 26 passages, and then in third was Algoma Central Corporation with 15. These three companies accounted for 79% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2015.
There were a number of vessels that were visitors to the Saginaw River in 2014, that did not make a delivery here in 2015, namely John J. Boland, Dorothy Ann – Pathfinder, Defiance – Ashtabula, Michipicoten, Robert S. Pierson, Saginaw, Everlast – Norman McCloud, Harbour Feature, and YM Saturn. The list of boats that were not visitors in 2014, but made a return to the Saginaw River in 2015 were: American Century, Buffalo, Walter J. McCarthy, Jr., and the Herbert C. Jackson. The Chem Norma made her first ever delivery to the Saginaw River in 2015. The tugs Manitou, Kimberly Anne, Kathy Lynn, and Matt Allen were also visitors. The USCG Cutter Hollyhock made visits to work aids to navigation in the Saginaw River Entrance Channel, and the tall ships Playfair, Pathfinder, Nina, and Pinta all made visits. The tug Gregory J. Busch was also up and down the Saginaw River numerous times.
There were a few notable stories during 2015. Crews from the King Company continued maintenance dredging of the Saginaw River shipping channel, working the lower river, while crews from Dean Marine & Excavating worked out in the Saginaw Bay, dredging the entrance channel to the Kawkawlin River. Finally, as mentioned earlier, neither the GM dock in Saginaw nor the Bit-Mat dock in Bay City received any cargo deliveries by water this season. This is the first time since I have been logging vessel passages that this has happened.
The upcoming 2016 season will hopefully be a safe and profitable one for everyone involved. Ice will not be an issue to start the season and there is almost none to be found anywhere on the Great Lakes or her rivers and bays. Hopefully we will also see 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. We will also see if any maintenance dredging will continue.