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Sam Laud Freighter

by George Wharton

Bay Shipbuilding Corp. of Sturgeon Bay, WI laid the keel for their hull # 712 on January 4, 1974 to be built as a smaller sized Great Lakes self-unloading bulk cargo carrier. The new vessel was launched on November 19, 1974 for Buffalo's American Steamship Company (ASC), a subsidiary of GATX Corp., Chicago, IL. Completed in 1975, the self unloader was christened Sam Laud by Mrs. Edna Laud on behalf of her husband at a christening ceremony held April 15, 1975. Mr. Sam Laud was the former President (1945) and Chairman of the Board (1956) of GATX Corp. having started with the company in 1916 as shop painter and riveter. Mr. Laud died August 1, 1963. GATX Corp. had acquired ASC in July of 1973. Mrs. Laud was accompanied by Mr. Frederick G. Jaicks, Chairman and CEO of Inland Steel Co., Chicago, IL who gave the address at the christening ceremonies.

One of a new generation of self-unloaders built new for the ASC fleet, the Sam Laud was built at an approximate cost of $13.3 million and was the fourth of ten self unloaders launched for the fleet under Chapter XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. Basically, under this Act, the U.S. government guaranteed financing and tax deferred benefits for fleet modernizing. The other ASC self-unloaders built under this program were the Roger M. Kyes (now Adam E. Cornelius, 1973), Charles E. Wilson (now John J. Boland, 1973), H. Lee White ((1974), St. Clair (1976), Belle River (now Walter J. McCarthy Jr., 1977), Buffalo (1978), Indiana Harbor (1979), American Mariner (1980) and American Republic (1981) at an approximate total cost of $250 million. At a time when "1,000-footers" were being planned and built, ASC saw the advantages of building smaller, versatile carriers to access smaller ports. The Sam Laud was the first of three built with this thought in mind, the other two being the Buffalo (1978) and the American Republic (1981).

The Sam Laud is powered by 2 GM EMD 20-645-E7 V-20 cylinder 3,600 b.h.p. (2,648 KW), 2 stroke cycle, single acting diesel engines burning marine diesel oil, built in 1974 by General Motors Corp. Electro Motive Div., La Grange, IL. The power is fed through a Falk reduction gearbox to a single controllable pitch propeller giving the vessel a rated service speed of 16.1 m.p.h. She is equipped with a 1,000 h.p. (736 KW) bow thruster and a 600 h.p. (442 KW) stern thruster. The vessel's 20 hatches service 5 holds where she is capable of carrying 23,857 tons (24,182 mt) at a mid-summer draft of 28' 00" (8.53m) and approximately 22,066 tons (22,421 mt) at the Seaway draft of 26' 06" (8.08m). The holds have the cubic capacity to carry 17,800 net tons (equivalent to 15,893 tons or 16,148 mt) of coal. Other capacities include 96.45 tons (98 mt) of fresh water, 259 tons (263.2 mt) of fuel oil and 14,520 tons (14,753 mt) of water ballast. The self-unloading system consists of hopper type holds gravity feeding cargo through gates to a tunnel conveyor feeding a stern-mounted loop belt elevator lifting the cargo to a 250' (76.2m) deck-mounted discharge boom conveyor that can unload at rates up to 6,000 tons (6,096 mt) of iron ore per hour. Cargoes vary but could include iron ore pellets (taconite), coal, limestone, gypsum and other stone / aggregates.

The Sam Laud cleared Sturgeon Bay, WI on her maiden voyage April 29, 1975 bound for Escanaba, MI to load iron ore for Indiana Harbor, IN. Not long after entering service, on June 28, 1975, the Sam Laud grounded on a shoal south of Sturgeon Bay while enroute from Chicago, IL to Green Bay, WI with coal. Receiving serious damage, 6,000 net tons of coal were lightered the next day to fleetmate Nicolet before being freed from her strand and proceeding with the Nicolet to Green Bay to discharge her cargo. The damaged self-unloader then arrived at Bay Shipbuilding at Sturgeon Bay on July 3 for dry-docking and extensive bottom repairs to 7 leaking double bottom tanks and forepeak, returning to service on August 21. The next year, on July 4, 1976, the vessel grounded entering Buffalo, NY and had to proceed to Lorain, OH for dry-docking and repairs to numbers 1,2 and 3 port and starboard tanks. The laker grounded again on November 15, 1981 above the Rock Cut, West Neebish Channel of the St. Marys River while downbound with potash from Duluth, MN for Zilwaukee, MI. After reportedly lightering some cargo to fleetmate Adam E. Cornelius, the Sam Laud was freed the next day with tug assistance.

October 16, 1982 found the Sam Laud at Sept-Isles, QC with a load of coal offloading the cargo with her self-unloading boom directly into the holds of the ocean going bulk carrier Mountain Thistle. It is believed to be the first time a U.S. flagged self unloader completed this unique operation which had been pioneered by Canada Steamship Lines in 1980.

A number of groundings over the past 35 years have tarnished the Sam Laud's history. Examples include grounding off the Augsbury Dock, Ogdensburg, NY on October 4, 1983 prior to loading marble chips for Chicago and the grounding on October 11, 1999 at Port Inland, MI while outbound with a load of limestone. Another grounding happened on November 21, 2000 while entering the harbor at Manistee, MI in strong winds and high seas with a load of coal from Toledo. No serious damage resulted nor was assistance required to extricate herself. The cause of some of the groundings has been the shoaling of harbor entrances and the less than satisfactory maintenance of the shipping channels into many of the smaller ports around the Great Lakes (due to lack of adequate funding available for proper and timely dredging). Other recent incidents of note include an allision with the Lower Lakes Coal Dock at Sandusky, OH on April 20, 2003 when caught by strong wind gusts during a thunderstorm while attempting to dock and a small fire reported on May 21, 2004 that started in the incinerator room while on Lake Michigan. Only minor damage was noted in both cases.

A snapshot of the ports visited by the Sam Laud over recent navigation seasons could read as a directory of U.S. Great Lakes ports with a couple of Canadian ports thrown into the mix. A sampling of ports visited include Cleveland OH, Silver Bay MN, Thunder Bay ON, Sandusky OH, Green Bay WI, Chicago IL, Duluth MN, Muskegon MI, Holland MI, Alpena MI, Wyandotte MI, Toledo OH, Essexville MI, Bay City MI, Ferrysburg OH, Stoneport MI, Sturgeon Bay WI, Sault Ste. Marie ON, Buffalo NY, Detroit MI, Marquette MI, Manistee MI, Ashtabula OH, Saginaw MI, Conneaut OH, Grand Haven MI, Calcite MI, Corunna ON, Monroe MI, Port Dolomite MI and St. Clair MI.

The Sam Laud has retained her launch name and remained with the same fleet since entering service in 1975. For a short period of time, from 2002 through 2005, the vessel was a part of United Shipping Alliance LLC where the fleets of ASC and Oglebay Norton Marine Services were combined into one operating pool. United Shipping Alliance dissolved when Oglebay Norton Marine Services ceased operations with many vessels of the Oglebay Norton Marine fleet becoming fleetmates of the Sam Laud sailing under the ASC banner. The Sam Laud continues to sail as an active member of the expanded American Steamship Co. fleet. With the severe economic downturn that started in late 2008, the Sam Laud saw only limited service in 2009 sailing from mid April to mid June and mid September through early January of 2010 when the vessel went into winter lay-up at Cleveland, OH.

Overall Dimensions (metric)
Length 634' 10" (193.83m)
Beam 68' 00" (20.73m)
Depth 40' 00" (12.19m)
Capacity (mid-summer) 23,857 tons (24,182 mt)
at draft of 28' 00" (8.53m)
Power (diesel) 7,200 b.h.p. (5,296 KW)


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