Columbia Star

Columbia Star – American Century


American Century, at the Rock Cut, St. Marys River, 1/7/2022. Roger LeLievre


Build Information

Year Built: 1981

Builder: Bay Shipbuilding Corp., Sturgeon Bay, WI

Hull #726

Registry: US 635289

IMO #7923196

Laid Down: March 3, 1980

Launch Date: November 11, 1980

Commissioned: May 30, 1981


The Columbia Star was constructed as a self-unloading bulk carrier for Oglebay Norton’s Columbia Transportation Division. She was Columbia’s first 1,000-Footer, and was the last “Footer” to enter service, but the second to last built. She was constructed under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970.

She was built to the plans of the Bay Shipbuilding 1,000-Footers, being the third vessel constructed. These ships were the Belle River [Walter J. McCarthy Jr., 1990;]Lewis Wilson Foy [Oglebay Norton, 1991; American Integrity, 2006;], Indiana Harbor, and Burns Harbor.

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; 260′

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



Engine Type: Diesel Engine

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

Engine Model: 20-645-E7

Number of Engines: 4

Rated HP: 14,000 BHP



Columbia Star – 1981-1994

Owner: Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Co., Cleveland, OH

Operator: Columbia Transportation Division, Oglebay Norton Co., Cleveland, OH

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

Columbia Star – 1994-2006

Owner: Oglebay Norton Co., Cleveland, OH

Operator: Oglebay Norton Co., Marine Division, Cleveland, OH

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

American Century – 2006-2020

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

Operator: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

American Century – 2020-Present

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

Operator: American Steamship Co., Buffalo, NY

Flag: United States

Home Port: Wilmington, DE

Her Story

In September 1979, Oglebay Norton Company and their Columbia Transportation Division signed a construction contract with Bay Shipbuilding Corporation of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for a 1,000-Foot ship. This would be the first and only 1,000-Footer built specifically for Columbia Transportation. The keel for the new 1,000-Footer was laid on March 3, 1980, being floated from drydock on November 11, 1980. She was christened Columbia Star on May 8, 1981, and entered service on May 30, 1981, bound for Silver Bay, Minnesota, to load iron ore for Lorain, Ohio. The Columbia Star was the second to last 1,000-Footer to be constructed, and the final enter service.

On July 12, 1985, the Columbia Star unloaded the largest delivery of iron ore to Toledo, Ohio, with 64,068 Tons. She set another record on July 2, 1986, loading 70,001 Tons of ore at Escanaba, Michigan, for Indiana Harbor, Indiana. She also set several coal records during the 1980’s as well. Beginning in the 1980’s, Oglebay Norton’s Columbia Transportation Division was awarded major coal-hauling contracts for Detroit Edison. The Columbia Star soon fell into this trade, carrying coal from Superior, Wisconsin, for Detroit Edison power plants at St. Clair and Monroe, Michigan. She also began to frequently call at Consumers Energy’s B. C. Cobb facility at Muskegon, Michigan.

In 1994, Oglebay Norton Company assumed full ownership of the Columbia Star, after the Columbia Transportation Division was dissolved. The Oglebay Norton logo was applied to the bow of the ship as well as the stacks soon after the restructuring.

Oglebay Norton faced rough times in the early 2000’s, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 23, 2004. On June 6, 2006, Oglebay Norton announced that they had sold six of their remaining ships to American Steamship Company of Buffalo, New York for $120 Million. The Columbia Star was included in the deal, and was renamed American Century soon after. She continued to service her usual trade routes of iron ore and coal from Lake Superior for lower lakes ports.

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, but the American Century did not fit out until partway through the 2020 season due to an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She is an active vessel in the ore and coal trades.

Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on April 19, 2023


Ahoy & Farewell II. Marine Historical Society of Detroit, 1996. Pp. 15.

Bawal, Raymond A., Jr. Superships of the Great Lakes. Inland Expressions, 2011. Pp. 75-80.

Berry, Sterling P. “Columbia Star”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 3 June 2020.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 4.4.

“M/V American Century”. American Steamship Company, N.d. Accessed 3 June 2020.

Wharton, George. “American Century”. Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 3 June 2020.