When it was built in 1959 in Manitowoc, WI, the laker Adam E. Cornelius was one of the new breed of US post-war ships. At 666'-3" length overall x 72' breadth , it was well short of the 735' x 75' maximum allowed by the brand new St.Lawrence Seaway, but it was able to access some ports that the big ships could not, such as its home port of Buffalo, NY. At Seaway draft ship could carry about 20,000 (short) tons of cargo, and about 21,700 tons on the open lakes.
Owners American Steamship Co were pioneers of self-unloader technology and they employed the latest type in this ship, with a 250 foot boom that swung out 120 degrees from the ship's centreline. They were not so daring when it came to propulsion however, but stayed with proven steam technology. The ship could travel as far east as Sept-Iles, QC for cargo, but was not built for sea service.
Eventually the ship proved to be too small and uneconomical to operate and it was laid up in 1985. In 1988 the ship was sold to the newly formed Keybulk Transport Inc of Montreal. It was towed to Halifax by the Secunda Marine tug/supplier Triumph Sea. Halifax-Dartmouth Industries (as Halifax Shipyards was then known) converted the ship to a barge.
Adam E. Cornelius arrived in Halifax in January 1989.
By removing a portion of the stern, and most of the engine room (leaving space for some diesel generators), the shipyard formed a pushing notch to fit a tug. The typical Great Lakes wheelhouse forward was left as a conning position, but control of the barge would be from the tug.
On completion of the work, the barge was renamed Capt Edward V.Smith and it was paired with the tug Irving Miami (later renamed Atlantic Hickory) using conventional face wires. The combination saw service on the Great Lakes and on the east coast, carrying grain, salt, and other bulk cargoes, including even iron ore. Various other tugs including Arctic Nanook, Atlantic Cedar and Magdalen Sea also towed / pushed the barge, in coastal work.
Irving Miami, later renamed Atlantic Hickory pushed the barge from a "padded" stern notch, connected by face wires.
In 1991 the barge was placed under Secunda management and renamed Sea Barge One. However Keybulk went out of business, and in 1992 the barge was sold by court ordered auction to low bidder Transport Desgagnes. Their tenure was particularly short, and in 1993 owners became Halifax Grain Elevator Ltd.
In 1996 the barge was renamed Sarah Spencer. The arrangement with Atlantic Hickory was not particularly successful in the Seaway locks, because was a far from rigid connection. Other shippers complained to the Seaway that they held up the progress of conventional ships. Conning the tug by VHF radio from the barge must have been a nightmare. In fact another tug was employed to tow them on occasion.
In 2000 Secunda provided the tug Tignish Sea for conversion to a pusher, with a proper, Bark River coupling system, to keep the tug rigid in the notch. The tug was converted in Halifax, with final installation of the pistons, and modifications to the barge made on the Lakes.
Renamed Jane Ann IV, the former Tignish Sea , leaves Halifax after conversion in October 2000.
See Tugfax for more on this: http://tugfaxblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2018/10/jane-ann-iv-offered-for-scrap.html
In this new arrangement the tug was controlled remotely from the barge's bridge via communication cable. The tug was pinned to the barge and could pitch, but not roll independently. The locking pistons on the tug would be adjusted to suit the barge's draft, using a series of perforations in a ladder formation, on the sides of the notch.
The rigid connection was more successful in the Seaway locks.
In 2006 tug and barge were sold to TGL Holdings of Plymouth, MI, but retained Canadian registration. The combination operated until 2008 when they went into intermittent, then long term layup, shifting between Toledo and Detroit.
The tug was scrapped earlier this year and on Friday October 18, the Sarah Spencer left Toledo in tow for Port Colborne, ON to be broken up as well. Conducting the tow are the tugs Ohio and the McKeil tug Molly M 1 (ex Point Vigour, ex Foundation Vigour), a former Halifax based tug that assisted the barge many times over the years.
Several other tug/barge combinations have been built or converted on the Great Lakes, using old Lake ship hulls, but this is the only one (so far) with a Halifax connection.