Monday, February 23, 2015

Gypsum - Part 1 - on the rebound for Milford

The recent announcement that National Gypsum will be expanding its quarry in Milford to ensure economical excavation bodes well for the future of gypsum shipping from Halifax. The existing open pit mine is reputed to be the largest in the world already.

The vision of National Gypsum's founder Melvin H. Baker has been cited here before, and I have covered many of the ships used by the company to export its product.

The best known and longest lasting was of course the Melvin H. Baker, built in 1956 specifically to run from Halifax, which it did until 1994. Starting with its first arrival direct from the A.G.Weser shipyard in Bremen August 10, 1956 it made something like 1700 trips out of Halifax, a record that will never be touched. After leaving with its last load on March 9, 1994 it operated in the orient until arriving at the shipbreakers in Xinhui, China December 23, 2009.

Melvin H. Baker was handsome ship despite its lack of bridge wings and stern "bustle".

A self-unloader, Melvin H. Baker had its unloading gear hidden from sight, except for the ungainly transfer structure on its stern. Conveyors extended from that housing to unload to a single hopper on shore.

The "Gold Bond" ships were an evolution of the Melvin H. Baker.

Many take credit for inventing the self-unloader, and I am willing to dispute most of them, but there were certainly a number that were early adopters. Skaarup Shipping being one (invention claims not withstanding), they did develop the system used by Melvin H. Baker for the subsequent series of "Gold Bond" ships, namely Colon Brown, Gold Bond Trailblazer, Gold Bond Conveyor and Georgia S.

While these ships were contracted to National Gypsum there were others, some connected with Skaarup Shipping and other perhaps not. For more on theses hips see the post:

While the Melvin H. Baker had some grace and elegance, Cavala was purely utilitarian. It was also built in 1956, but by National Bulk Carriers in Kure, Japan. The brainchild of Daniel K. Ludwig, the shipyard was established soon after the end of World War II, and cranked out ships in quantity. Largely responsible for Japan becoming the world's shipbuilding powerhouse it also propelled Ludwig into one of the wealthiest people in the world. The Kure yard built mostly tankers, but did build self-unloading bulkers too. (I don't know if they too claimed to have invented them or not.

Cavala makes a stealth approach, though fog and a greasy swell.

Cavala was built as Ore Convoy for Ludwig's Universe Tankships Inc. It measured 16,015 grt, 30,458 dwt, and was built like a tanker with island bridge. Its conveyor system, also mounted amidships, projected up through the bridge structure, and fed a slewing boom that allowed it to unload where there were no shore facilities.
 Fully loaded Cavala leaves ports, still bearing the National Bulk Carriers funnel marking.

The Canadian ship owner P.B.Papachristidis bought the ship in 1969 as he was transitioning from lakes ship owner back into international shipping. He gave it the name Cavala and it was owed by several different companies under his control until 1982. It began calling in Halifax in 1970 and was a regular caller. It must have been in fairly fragile condition by then, for it was badly damaged while docking at National Gypsum's dock in Bedford Basin and was sold for scrap. It arrived in Kaohsiung April 27, 1983.

National Gypsum's traveling ship loader was more effective loading ships with clear decks. It had to be retracted and repositioned frequently to load ships with island bridge structures.

Another product of the National Bulk Carriers yard in Kure was J.Louis Measuring 20,252 grt, 32,00g dwt, it was built in 1961, and looked like a tanker with its island bridge structure plunked in the midships position of its deck.
J.Louis looked like a tanker or conventional bulker of the day, because its self-unloading gear was hidden from view.

It was also a self-unloader, but all the gear was below deck, and there was a transfer structure built on the poop deck just forward of the engine room.
Also a very basic ship, it did not have a single funnel, but a pair of exhaust stacks which were located to clear some of the internal self-unloader workings.

The island bride was midway between forecastle and quarter deck.

J.Louis was owned by Ludwig's Universal Tankships Inc until 1968, when it was sold to Caribbean Steamships Co of the USA, and was then managed by Skaarup Shipping, operators of the other National Gypsum ships. In 1970 it was sold again, this time to Reyships Canada Inc, part of the Reynolds Aluminum Corp.
The ship's stubby funnels flanked the transfer house where the retracting conveyors were stowed.

That company had several facilities in the Province of Quebec, and the ship was likely built to deliver bauxite or alumina to such places as Baie-Comeau, where it would unload directly into a hopper system on the shore. It back-hauled gypsum from Halifax during the 1970s until 1985.
It arrived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan February 28, 1986 where it was broken up for scrap, still under Skaarup management.

The funnels were painted an aluminum colour and carried the Reynolds Aluminum logo.

The ship was named for Jean-Louis Levesque (1911-1994), an influential Quebec financier, and director of many Canadian corporations. Now chiefly remembered for his contribution to purebred horseracing, he was in fact a major influence in the industrial development of Quebec. That his name was given to the ship from the beginning indicates that he has some involvement with its operation from the start, most likely through Reynolds Aluminum.


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