Belle River

Belle River – Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

1977-Present

Walter J. McCarthy Jr. on the St. Clair River, May 21, 2019. Photo by Isaac Pennock

Specs

Build Information

Year Built: 1977

Builder: Bay Shipbuilding Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Hull #716

Registry: US 585852

IMO #7514684

Laid Down: Bow Section: March 11, 1976; Aft Section: August 5, 1976

Launch Date: Bow Section: September 30, 1976; Entire Hull: February 26, 1977

Commissioned: August 31, 1977

Construction

The Belle River was constructed as a self-unloading bulk carrier for American Steamship Company’s subsidiary Armstrong Steamship Company. The Belle River was the fifth 1,000-Footer built, being the first built at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She was the sixth of ten vessels built for American Steamship Company under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970.

The Belle River was constructed in two sections, with her 660′ bow section being built first and side launched at Sturgeon Bay while her 340′ stern section was under construction in the large graving dock. The sections were welded together in drydock and launched on February 26, 1977.

She was the lead ship of the Bay Shipbuilding 1,000-Footers, with four other vessels being built to nearly identical plans. These ships were the Lewis Wilson Foy [Oglebay Norton, 1991; American Integrity, 2006;], Indiana Harbor, Burns Harbor, and Columbia Star [American Century, 2006;].

The Belle River‘s cargo hold was designed with maximum cubic dimensions for hauling low-density cargoes such as coal. She was constructed to haul coal from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit Edison’s power plants at St. Clair and Monroe, Michigan. Her self-unloading equipment consists of a single hold belt leading to an aft loop-belt system to a 250′ deck-mounted boom.


General Stats

Length Overall: 1,000′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 990′

Breadth: 105′

Depth: 56′

Loaded Draft: 34’01”

Capacity: 80,900 Tons

Vessel Type: Loop-Belt Self-Unloader

Self-Unloading Boom Length: Aft-Mounted; 250′

Number of Cargo Holds: 7 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 5-5-6-6-6-5-4]

Number of Hatches: 37 [Dimensions: 56’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore, Coal Trades

Propellers: 2 Controllable Pitch Propellers

Rudders: 2


Engineering Equipment

Original

Engine

Engine Type: Diesel Engines

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

Engine Model: 20-645-E7B

Number of Engines: 4

Rated HP: 14000 BHP


History

Lineage

Belle River – 1977-1990

Owner: Armstrong Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY [American Steamship Co., GATX Corp.]

Operator: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE


Walter J. McCarthy Jr. – 1990-2020

Owner: Armstrong Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY [American Steamship Company., GATX Corp.]

Operator: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE


Walter J. McCarthy Jr. – 2020-Present

Owner: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY [Rand Logistics]

Operator: American Steamship Co.

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE


Her Story

The Belle River was constructed as a self-unloading bulk carrier for American Steamship Company’s subsidiary Armstrong Steamship Company. She was built under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970, and designed to haul coal from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit Edison’s power plants at St. Clair and Monroe, Michigan.

The Belle River was constructed in two sections, with her 660′ bow section being built first and side launched at Sturgeon Bay on September 30, 1976, while her 340′ stern section was under construction in the large graving dock. The sections were welded together in drydock and launched on February 26, 1977. The Belle River was christened on July 12, 1977. She had to return to drydock on August 6, 1977, after striking the bottom at the fit-out dock. She entered service on August 31, 1977, loading coal at Superior, Wisconsin, bound for the Detroit Edison power plant at Recors Point.

On May 25, 1990, the Belle River was rechristened Walter J. McCarthy Jr. after the retired chairman of Detroit Edison during ceremonies at their Recors Point power plant.

While docking for winter layup, the McCarthy struck a submerged object at the Hallet No. 8 Dock at Superior, Wisconsin, on January 14, 2008. The ship suffered extensive damage, with a large hole in its hull, which flooded the engine room, causing her stern to sink to the bottom. The damage required repairs at a cost of about $5 Million. The McCarthy returned to service on May 6, 2008.

In February 2020, Rand Logistics announced that they purchased American Steamship Company from their parent company GATX Corp. No immediate changes were made to the fleet, and the Walter J. McCarthy Jr. returned to service as usual. 

The Walter J. McCarthy Jr. remains active in the coal transport between Superior, Wisconsin, and DTE’s coal plants in the Detroit region, while finding herself more and more involved in the ore trade as the coal market continues to diminish.


Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on May 19, 2020


Gallery


Sources

Ahoy & Farewell II. Marine Historical Society of Detroit, 1996. Pp. 8.

Bawal, Raymond A., Jr. Superships of the Great Lakes. Inland Expressions, 2011. Pp. 33-37.

Berry, Sterling P. “Belle River”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 19 May 2020. <https://www.greatlakesvesselhistory.com/histories-by-name/b/belle-river>

Devendorf, John F. Great Lakes Bulk Carriers, 1869-1985. John F. Devendorf, 1996. Pp. 191.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 4.13.

“M/V Walter J. McCarthy Jr.”. American Steamship Company, N.d. Accessed 19 May 2020. <http://americansteamship.com/fleet/mv-walter-mccarthy.php>

Wharton, George. “Walter J. McCarthy Jr.”. Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 19 May 2020. <http://boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/WalterJMcCarthyJr.htm>