Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Seaway 2018 in Review

By: Michael Folsom & Joanne Crack

Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2019

The 2018 Seaway season was rather smooth sailing.

Reports of groundings or lock damage were minimal, while the amount  of cargo moved along the waterway was at an increase during the past  season. And, ship watchers were out in full force capturing the many  vessels that graced the Islands.          

Bro Anges, Jason DesJardins  2018
"Bro Agnes" passing through the Thousand Islands. [Photo courtesy Jason DesJardins, Horizon Aerial Media Services.]

A little more than three months after the last ship of the 2017  season left the Seaway, which had become an ice jam at Snell Lock, the  first ships of the new season opened the system on March 29. Those  having the honor of being the first ship(s) were the newly acquired  cement carrier McKeil Spirit at St. Lambert Lock in Montreal, Algoma Niagara at the annual Top Hat Ceremony at Lock 3 Welland Canal, as well as Top  Hat ceremonies at Lock 8 Welland Canal, Port Colborne featuring Algoma Equinox at Lock 8 Welland Canal, Port Colborne featuring Algoma Equinox.

Just a few short days into season brought new builds Algoma Innovator and Algoma Sault, self-discharging bulk carriers, and Mia Desgagnés, the dual-fueled LNG chemical tanker.

USCGC Escanaba [Photo courtesy Joanne Crack, The Prescott Anchor]
HMCS Moncton [Photo courtesy Joanne Crack, The Prescott Anchor]

None of the shipping-related issues in 2018 would be severe or overly concerning. Kaministiqua reportedly lost steering near Toussiant Island in late April, causing a  short delay for others, and a few others would experience similar  problems. Tug Wilf Seymour got hung-up in the Beauharnois Canal as well. However, the biggest news of the season was the grounding of Chem Norma at the end of May. The ship was traveling upbound and carrying  petroleum products when it grounded off Morrisburg, Ontario. After  experiencing a mechanical failure, the ship drifted out of the channel  and its bow became stuck against the embankment of the submerged former  Seaway Lock 23, located just off of the modern-day mainland of  Morrisburg. The salvage process would take several attempts over a  number of days and include tugs Ocean Pierre Julien, Ocean K. Rusby, and Ocean Tundra.  It would also require an increase of water flow east of Iroquois Lock  that would help to refloat the ship and free it on June 3. The ship then  sailed along the Seaway to Lake Ontario, where restricted  maneuverability was reported and the vessel made its way to Tibbetts  Point Anchorage. She would later be assisted across Lake Ontario to Port  Dalhousie Anchorage by tug Ocean Golf and sail the Seaway again without further troubles.

The region would also have an array of unique visitors in 2018.  

The Pelee Islander II Ferry was built in Chile and will be taking passengers to Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Victory II, which is the sister ship of the former Saint Laurent, now known as Victory I.

The new Pelee Island II was a sight to see and  caught the attention of many ship watchers, while some ships of force  ventured through the Islands as well. HMCS Oriole and HMCS Moncton were touring Canadian ports as part of their Great Lakes promotional  deployment throughout the summer. On June 30, Canada’s second largest  ice breaker, CCGS Terry Fox, passed through enroute to  St. Catharines, ON, for re-fit. And as one Canadian Coast Guard vessel  went in for work, another went out to sea. CCGS Samuel Risley set out to the Arctic waters to participate in the annual “Operation  Pacer Goose” – a supply mission for the Thule, U.S.A. Air Force Base,  Greenland. In the late fall, two new US Navy ship builds, USS Sioux City and USS Wichita, would depart the Great Lakes for their new stations.

Other highlights included the scrap tow of American Victory, as well  as numerous yachts and cruise ships – including Thousand Islands based Canadian Empress and Victory II, which is the sister ship of the former Saint Laurent, now known as Victory I. She is the vessel which had an unfortunate mishap with the Eisenhower Lock door several seasons ago.          

Federal Danube, Jason DesJardins  2018
Federal Danube [Photo by Jason DesJardins, Horizon Aerial Media Services 

One bit of sad shipping news came in October when a crew member, of  more than 20 years, was being lowered off Canada Steamship Lines’ Spruceglen at  Eisenhower Lock in an effort to tie up the ship on the lock wall. This  common, yet dangerous, task would prove to be fatal after the man  slipped-off the dock and fell into the water and was found only minutes  later, unresponsive. Efforts would be made at the dock to revive him,  but unsuccessfully. The ship would proceed to its destination of  Ashtabula, OH following a brief investigation into the accident. Fellow  crew members and mariners took to social media to share their thoughts  and condolences. CSL ships would fly their flags at half-mast as a sign  of respect and mourning.

As November rolled around, so did the common gale force winds. On  November 7, vessels anchored throughout the Seaway as winds topped 40  knots. Just a week or so later, the beginning of the partial closing of  the ice boom across the Seaway between Prescott, ON and Ogdensburg, NY  took place and by November 30, the partial closing of the main ice boom  was complete leaving a 610m, (2,000ft) opening marked by red and green flashing lights allowing the ships to continue to pass through.

Blinding and blowing snow would cause havoc by closing the Pilot  Station at Cape Vincent, sending several ships into various anchorages  and well-known tugs Robinson Bay and Performance, along with CCGS Griffon, would work to pull navigation markers in cold conditions. Griffon would later proceed into the Great Lakes where it would serve as an ice-breaking vessel for winter shipping.          

Momentum Scan, Jason DesJardins  2018
Momentum Scan [Photo by Jason DesJardins, Horizon Aerial Media Services]
Algoma Niagara at Welland Canal Lock 3
Algoma Sault, photo by Joanne Crack, The Prescott Journal
Canadian Empress who completed 31 tours of the Thousand Islands last summer. 
Top Hat with Algoma Niagara at Welland Canal Lock 3

By Michael Folsom & Joanne Crack, Seaway Ship Watchers Network

Michael Folsom  and Joanne Crack are partners in the Seaway Ship Watchers Network, a  collaboration of Seaway News and Information. They are best known for  operating the popular social media pages of St. Lawrence Seaway Ship Watchers (Folsom) and The Prescott Anchor (Crack).

Comments posted on old TI Life:


Comment by: Brian Johnson
Left at: 5:41 PM Monday, January 14, 2019

Please allow me to be the first to congratulate my dear friend and  colleague Joanne Crack of the Prescott Anchor and Mike Folsom of the St.  Lawrence River Shipwatchers on this FANTASTIC article!!!
When it  comes to news on the seaway, these two 'ship watchers' miss nothing.  Very Big Congrats to both. And Joanne... 'nobody does it better'!

Comment by: Mardy Howe
Left at: 10:35 PM Monday, January 14, 2019

Awesome article. Very well done. Loved the photos. It was good fun  looking back at the past year in shipping. Congratulations very well  done. Your  records of the past years events must be very well kept in  order t pull this article together. Kudos and here's  anxiously awaiting  next season.  

Posted in: Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2019, Places, News article, Sports, People, Photography

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Michael Folsom & Joanne Crack

Michael Folsom and Joanne Crack are partners in the Seaway Ship Watchers Network, a collaboration of Seaway News and Information.

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