American Republic

American Republic – Great Republic


Great Republic departing Muskegon, Michigan, May 25, 2020. Photo by Brendan Falkowski


Build Information

Year Built: 1981

Builder: Bay Shipbuilding Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Hull #724

Registry: U.S. 633579

IMO #7914236

Laid Down: November 12, 1979

Launch Date: July 14, 1980

Commissioned: May 21, 1981


The American Republic was constructed as a self-unloading bulk carrier for Connecticut Bank & Trust, Hartford, Connecticut, to be managed by American Steamship Company. She was the final of ten vessels constructed for the American Steamship Company under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. She was designed and constructed to run iron ore shuttles up the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland.

The American Republic was the most maneuverable ship in the world, with twin propellers in Kort Nozzles with two rudders aft and two forward flanking rudders each. Her pilothouse and accommodations block are set as far aft as possible in order to give the best view possible for navigation in confined spaces. From within her pilothouse, there are four control stations with 360 degrees of vision.

The American Republic was the final of four similar River class sister ships constructed by Bay Shipbuilding. The other three were the identical Sam Laud and Buffalo, and the near-identical American Courage. The Republic was most distinguished from her near sisters by her aft accommodations, with her pilothouse located as far aft as possible. The Republic also has twin propellers and possesses a loop-belt style self-unloading system rather than an incline belt system.

Her self-unloading equipment consists of a single hold belt leading to an aft loop-belt system to a 250′ deck-mounted boom.


  • Standard lifeboat replaced, H. Hansen Industries, Toledo, OH, 2015.

General Stats

Length Overall: 634’10”

Length Between Perpendiculars: 623’03”

Breadth: 68′

Depth: 40′

Loaded Draft: 28’04”

Capacity: 24,800 Tons

Vessel Type: Loop-Belt Self-Unloader

Self-Unloading Boom Length: Aft-Mounted; 251’06”

Number of Cargo Holds: 6 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 3-4-5-4-1]

Number of Hatches: 21 [Dimensions: 40’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore, Coal, Stone Trades

Propellers: 2 Controllable Pitch Propellers [In dual Kort Nozzles]

Rudders: 8 Total [4 normal and 4 flanking rudders; two of each for each propeller]

Engineering Equipment



Engine Type: Diesel Engine

Engine Manufacturer: General Motors Electro-Motive Division, Chicago, IL

Engine Model: 20-645-E7

Number of Engines: 2

Rated HP: 7200 BHP



American Republic – 1981-2011

Owner: Connecticut Bank & Trust, Hartford, CT [Managed by American Steamship Co.]

Operator: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

Great Republic – 2011-Present

Owner: Banc of America Leasing & Capital LLC, San Francisco, CA [Managed by Great Lakes Fleet Inc., Duluth, MN]

Operator: Key Lakes Inc., Duluth, MN

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

Her Story

The American Republic was built as a self-unloading bulk carrier in 1981 for the Connecticut Bank & Trust, to be managed by the American Steamship Company. She was the final of ten ships built for American Steamship under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970. When constructed, the American Republic was the most maneuverable vessel in the world, being equipped with bow and stern thrusters, twin propellers housed in dual Kort Nozzles, with two forward flanking rudders and two aft rudders for each propeller. The Republic‘s aft accommodations block was positioned in a way that the pilothouse could be located as far aft as possible to provide the crew with the best view possible for navigating in confined waterways. She was specifically designed to navigate the Cuyahoga River, being built to run taconite pellets from the Lorain Pellet Terminal and Cleveland Lakefront Docks to the steel mills upriver on the Cuyahoga. The American Republic was capable of carrying around 20,000 tons on her shuttles up the Cuyahoga River, more than other vessels are capable of carrying up the river.

The keel for the American Republic was laid on November 12, 1979, in the graving dock at Bay Shipbuilding’s yard in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The hull was floated on July 14, 1980, conducting sea trials on Green Bay from April 8-10, May 4-11, and May 18, 1981. She sailed on her maiden voyage on May 21, 1981, bound for Escanaba, Michigan, to load taconite pellets for Cleveland. The American Republic made 37 trips before her christening on July 18, 1981.

The American Republic was involved in the first ship-to-ship cargo transfer at Cleveland on May 26, 1983, when the Canadian Progress unloaded into her cargo holds for delivery to Jones & Laughlin Steel up the Cuyahoga River. During February 1993, the American Republic ran two midwinter taconite shuttles from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Trenton, Michigan, encountering heavy ice throughout both trips.

On June 9, 1996, the American Republic had the honor of carrying the Olympic flame on her deck from Detroit to Cleveland. The flame was transferred to a deck-mounted cauldron torch mounted on the No. 4 Hatch cover at 10:15 AM, and the ship departed Detroit soon after, sailing to dock at Cleveland’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, arriving around 8 PM.

During the early 2000’s, the American Republic faced mid season layups due to low economic demand.

In early 2011, American Steamship’s management contract of the American Republic came to an end, and the contract was picked up by Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., of Duluth, Minnesota. On June 2, 2011, the American Republic was renamed Great Republic, departing her layup dock at Toledo, Ohio, later that day bound for Marquette, Michigan, to load iron ore. She was repainted in Great Lakes Fleet colors in early 2014.

The Great Republic continues to be an active member of Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., serving the iron ore, coal, and stone trades.

Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on June 3, 2020


Ahoy & Farewell II. Marine Historical Society of Detroit, 1996. Pp. 6.

Berry, Sterling P. “American Republic”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 2 June 2020. <>

Davidson, Todd. “Great Republic”. Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 2 June 2020. <>

Devendorf, John F. Great Lakes Bulk Carriers, 1869-1985. John F. Devendorf, 1996. Pp. 194.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 4.10.