Tug Sharon M I with Huron Spirit inbound on the Saginaw River this morning, calling on the Port Fisher/Bay Aggregates dock in Bay City. 1/5/19
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Saginaw River - Shipping Season Report – 2018
For the second consecutive year, commercial shipping numbers have continued to climb on the Saginaw River, rebounding in 2018 to the highest number of vessel passages since the 2010 season. After recording record low numbers during the 2014 & 2016 seasons, increases in the past two years have now led to an optimistic outlook that the worst could now hopefully be behind us. The companies doing business along the banks of the Saginaw River are always looking for ways to diversify and introduce new cargo to be moved by boat, as well as continually working for improvements to the system, be it dredging to a deeper channel depth or making improvements at their docks. Hopefully the hard work being done now, will pay off in the years to come. The following is a look back at what took place along the banks of the Saginaw River during the 2018 shipping season:
The 2018 shipping season officially started on March 29th, 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 one day earlier than the 2017 season opener. Spartan/Spartan II also opened the season in 2017. The 2018 season came to a close on a very foggy, but mild January 5th, when the tug Sharon M I and her barge, called on the Port Fisher/Bay Aggregates Dock, in Bay City, with the last inbound cargo of the season. This was 13 days later than the 2017 close, for a season lasting 283 days, 15 days longer than last year. For 2018, there were a total of 143 commercial vessel passages. That is 10 more than the previous season. These passages were made by 30 different vessels, representing fourteen different companies. This is a decrease of one unique vessel, but an increase of one more company, as compared to the 2017 numbers.
Looking at some of the other statistics from the 2018 season, cargos were delivered to 17 individual docks this season. This number is an increase from last year. One of the increases was the Bit-Mat liquid asphalt dock in Bay City. They received product by tank barge this season for the first time since 2014. The dock seeing the most traffic in 2018 was the Port Fisher/Bay Aggregates Dock in Bay City, seeing 38 vessel deliveries. This was four more deliveries than during the 2017 season. Coming in second was the Lafarge Cement Dock in Essexville, with 24 cargo deliveries. This was a huge increase of 11 trips, almost double that of the previous season. In third place was the Wirt Stone Dock in Saginaw, with 21 cargo deliveries, and closely followed by the Consumers Energy Dock in Essexville, with 20 cargos delivered. These four docks accounted for 62% of all vessel deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2018. The “big two” companies, who own multiple docks along the Saginaw River, Fisher Companies and Wirt, accounted for 54% of all cargo delivered this season. In all, accounting for split cargos by some vessels, which unloaded at two or more different docks on the same visit, there were 167 deliveries to the various docks along the Saginaw River. This is 8 more actual dock deliveries than during the 2017 season.
For the first time in twelve seasons, there is a new queen of the Saginaw River! For the past eleven years, the tug Olive L. Moore, paired with the self-unloading barge Menominee, have made the most trips to the Saginaw River each season. This year however, logging 25 visits, the Interlake Steamship Company tug Dorothy Ann and her self-unloading barge, Pathfinder, took the crown, beating the Olive L. Moore/Menominee by 5 trips. The vessels following these two workhorse tug/barge combos, rounding out the top five with the most trips to the Saginaw River are two more tug/barge combos from Andrie/Lafarge: Samuel de Champlain/Innovation with 9 and G.L. Ostrander/Integrity with 8. The traditional self-unloading laker from American Steamship Company, John J. Boland, came in next, also with 8 visits.
There is another change at the top this season. The company leading the way with the most cargo deliveries to the Saginaw River in 2018 was the American Steamship Company with 35 trips, accounting for 24% of all deliveries. Lower Lakes Towing/Grand River Navigation, leaders for the past 11 years, logged the second most visits, with 34, just missing out on the top spot. The changes were very small as American Steamship logged the same number of cargos to the Saginaw River as in 2017, but Lower Lakes dropped by two. The third busiest fleet in 2018 was the Interlake Steamship Company with 28 passages, representing an increase of two trips over last season. These three companies accounted for 68% of all deliveries on the Saginaw River in 2018.
There were a number of vessels that were visitors to the Saginaw River in 2017, that did not make a delivery here in 2018, with those vessels being: Algoway, Great Republic, Manitoulin, Michipicoton, HR Constellation, and the BBC vessels Alberta, Campana, Elbe, and Volga. The list of boats that were not visitors in 2017, but visited the Saginaw River in 2018 were: Algoma Innovator, Algoma Buffalo, Mississagi, Saginaw, Joseph H. Thompson, Jr./Joseph H. Thompson, BBC Europe, Florijngracht, and the tug Rebecca Lynn/A397. Algoma Innovator made her first ever trips to the Saginaw River, one of Algoma Central’s new “Equinox” class vessels, the Innovator replaced the retired Algoway on trips here. Buffalo, a Saginaw River fixture for many years, made her first trip under her new name, Algoma Buffalo, and new owners. It was good to see Saginaw back on her namesake river. The BBC Europe and Florijngracht also made their first ever visits to the Saginaw River.
There were a few other notable stories during the 2018 season. After no dredging being done during the 2017 season, maintenance dredging resumed on the Saginaw River, beginning in the late spring. Ryba Marine Construction, out of Cheboygan Michigan won the contract for the dredging, bringing their tug, Thomas R. Morrish and numerous pieces of dredging equipment to the river. The workhorse Malcolm Marine tug, Manitou, also made numerous trips from her St. Clair, Michigan home to the Saginaw River, arriving to assist the BBC Europe at the Port Fisher dock and towing dredging equipment for Ryba Marine to and from the Saginaw River. The Port Fisher Dock in Bay City again received wind turbine components at its facility, but this season, the majority were delivered there by truck. The presence of foreign flagged cargo ships continued on the Saginaw River however, as the BBC Europe and Florijngracht did deliver cargo to Port Fisher in 2018. Sadly, this was the first season in many decades that one of the familiar Collingwood Shipyard built, Algoma Central boats, Algorail, Algoway, and Agawa Canyon did not visit the Saginaw River, with all now being retired from service.
Friday, January 4, 2019
For the month of December 2018, there were a total of six commercial vessel passages on the Saginaw River. This is a decrease of one passage from the same time period last season. It also falls in line with the 5-year average for December, also at six vessel passages and the 10-year average, which is seven.
For the total number of vessel passages as of December 31st, there were 142. This is the highest number of passages at the end of the year since the 2010 season when there were 145. Year to date, December 2018, was up from last year by 9 passages. It was also up from the 5-year average of 126 commercial vessel passages and the 10-year average of 135 passages.