Friday, July 12, 2013

Atlantic Huron - celebrations, but not all good news.

 1. Atlantic Huron inbound for National Gypsum this morning The lower portion of the hull was widened in 2002 to the new Seaway maximum size.

The arrival today of Atlantic Huron for a load of gypsum is a reminder that Canada Steamship Lines is doing a double header celebration this year. 2013 is the centennial of the formation of the CSL with the consolidation of the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Company (dating back to 1845) and  James Playfair's Inland Lines and others. Under the figurehead of the enigmatic W. Grant Morden, with capital sourced by Lord Furness of Grantley, CSL became the colossus of Canadian shipping one hundred years ago.
Its ups and downs and its influence on other events (including its principals' later involvement in the founding of Halifax Shipyards) make for fascinating history - much too complex to recount here.
2. Atlantic Huron flies the traditional black barred house flag with red maple leaf and the 2013 centennial/ Trillium flag.

The second celebration is the delivery its new Trillium class ships. The first of the Chinese built ships, Baie St.Paul, was delivered late last year and opened the Seaway this spring. The second, Whitefish Bay arrived in Montreal this week and the third, Baie Comeau, is on the way. These state of the art ships will begin to displace older ships in the fleet, but it is early days to speculate on which ones, but Atlantic Huron is likely to be on the short list. Built in 1984 and converted to a self-unloader in 1989, it was extensively rebuilt in 2002 when its mid-body was widened. However its "after end"  - meaning engines and mechanicals are original. Its years in salt water and some nasty cargoes, have accelerated deterioration.  
3. The ship is looking pretty rugged up forward. The transition to the widened hull is taking a lot of abuse from locking though the Seaway, and will likely need some serious repair work.

Adding to the uncertainly of the future of this ship are questions about the future of Nova Scotia's gyspum industry. The ship was on charter to National Gypsum and carried the named Melvin H. Baker II (the founder of the company) from 1994-1997. Now we hear that National Gypsum may follow US Gypsum in closing down its mainland Nova Scotia operations*. USG permanently closed its mine near Windsor and loading facilities in Hantsport, NS. It seems that NSG may do the same unless conditions improve in the US building market. It operates the world's largest open pit gypsum mine near Milford Station and ships the product out through Halifax. Shipments have been drastically reduced due to the US economic woes, and the increase in synthetic and by-product gypsum. It is producing well below capacity and may well be closed or mothballed within a year or two.
* Revision: a nasty rumour - denied by National Gypsum - see posting of July 20. 


  1. Hi Mac, actually the third ship is the Thunder Bay and she just cleared the Panama Canal, should be in Montreal in a week or so, the Baie Comeau just left the yard last week and should be in North America the end of August. PS Love your photos.

  2. Bruno BoissonneaultJuly 14, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    THUNDER BAY is on its way, BAIE COMEAU is still fitting out in China.

  3. In response to your blog post on Friday, July 13, National Gypsum has no plans to close its quarry at Milford Station, Nova Scotia. While it is true production has been down due to the housing recession in the United States, the quarry – the largest in the world – is an important asset and supplies a number of wallboard plants in the United States with gypsum rock.

    Nancy Spurlock
    Corporate Communications Director
    National Gypsum Company