Roger Blough

Roger Blough

1972-Present

Roger Blough on the St. Marys River, July 9, 2018. Photo by Roger LeLievre

Specs

Build Information

Year Built: 1972

Builder: American Shipbuilding Co., Lorain, OH

Hull #900

Registry: U. S. 533062

IMO #7222138

Laid Down: Bow Section: June 3, 1968; Stern Section: December 29, 1969

Launch Date: Bow Section: December 21, 1968; Entire Hull: June 3, 1972

Commissioned: June 15, 1972

Construction

The Roger Blough was constructed over the course of three years for the United States Steel Corporation’s Marine Division. The keel was laid for the Blough‘s bow section on September 3, 1968, and was launched on December 21, 1968. The bow section was not built to the full designed width of 105’ initially, as the graving dock at AmShip’s Lorain yard was not wide enough. A wider drydock was under construction at that point in time. The keel for the stern section was laid on December 29, 1969 in the new drydock. The bow section was floated into the drydock on July 25, 1970, where it was joined with the stern section. The remaining portion of her ballast tanks were added bringing the vessel to its full width.

The Blough suffered a major engine room fire on June 24, 1971, resulting in the destruction of the aft section of the ship and the deaths of four shipyard workers. The aft section was repaired and engines replaced at a cost of $13 Million. The Roger Blough was finally launched on June 3, 1972 and entered service on June 15th.

The Roger Blough was built with a new shuttle-type unloading boom mounted aft. The boom can extend about 50′ out of small openings on either side of her stern, limiting her unloading capabilities to small shoreside hoppers. The only locations the Blough is capable of unloading at are Gary, Indiana, and Conneaut, Ohio. Her self-unloading equipment consists of a single hold belt leading to an aft incline-belt system to 52′ shuttle boom. 

The Blough was the final U.S. laker to be constructed in the traditional style, with the pilothouse and cabins forward and the engine room aft. All U. S. ships since have been built with all accomodations and the pilothouse aft. The final Canadian laker to be built in the traditional style was the Algosoo of 1974.

Modifications

  • Tunnels added to stern section for better water flow to propeller.
  • Davits removed, modern lifeboats installed, 2012.

General Stats

Length Overall: 858′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 833′

Breadth: 105′ ‘

Depth: 41’06’

Loaded Draft: 27’11”

Capacity: 43,900 Tons

Vessel Type: Incline-Belt Self-Unloader

Self-Unloading Boom Length: Aft-Mounted Shuttle Boom; 54′

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

Number of Hatches: 21 [Dimensions: 58’x20′]

Primary Operations: Ore Trade

Propellers: 1 Controllable Pitch Propeller

Rudders: 1


Engineering Equipment

Original

Engine

Engine Type: Diesel Engines

Engine Manufacturer: Pielstick, Beloit, WI

Engine Model: 16PC2V-400

Number of Engines: 2

Rated HP: 14,200 BHP


History

Lineage

Roger Blough – 1972-1981

Owner: USS Great Lakes Fleet, New York, NY [U.S. Steel Corp.]

Operator: USS Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: New York, NY


Roger Blough – 1981-1988

Owner: USX Great Lakes Fleet, Duluth, MN

Operator: USX Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN


Roger Blough – 1988-2004

Owner: USX Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., Duluth, MN [Blackstone Capital Partners]

Operator: USX Great Lakes Fleet

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN


Roger Blough – 2004-Present

Owner: Great Lakes Fleet, Inc., Duluth, MN [Canadian National Railway]

Operator: Key Lakes Inc., Duluth, MN

Flag: United States

Home Port: Duluth, MN


Her Story

After construction on the Poe Lock began, officials at United States Steel Corporation looked to Marine Consultants & Designers of Cleveland to design a new freighter that took advantage of the increase in size limitations. The new ship would be built as a self-unloader to service U.S. Steel’s Gary and South Chicago steel mills.

The Roger Blough was constructed over the course of three years for the United States Steel Corporation’s Marine Division. The keel was laid for the Blough‘s bow section on September 3, 1968, and was launched on December 21, 1968. The bow section was not built to the full designed width of 105’ initially, as the graving dock at AmShip’s Lorain yard was not wide enough. A wider drydock was under construction at that point in time. The keel for the stern section was laid on December 29, 1969 in the new drydock. The bow section was floated into the drydock on July 25, 1970, where it was joined with the stern section. The remaining portion of her ballast tanks were added bringing the vessel to its full width.

The vessel was to be completed by around July 1971, but, on June 24, 1971, a massive fire broke out in the engine room. It is sepculated that the cause was a high intensity lightbulb that ignited leaking fuel from a faulty hose seal. The fire completely destroyed the engine room, and ended up killing four yard workers who were checking a tank below the engine room. The stern accomodations and engineering block had to be repaired and refinished, and her engines replaced, a task that added $13 Million to the project. The ship was launched on June 3, 1972, and christened on June 5. She finally entered service on June 15th, a little over a month after the first 1,000 footer Stewart J. Cort sailed on her maiden voyage.

The Roger Blough became the flagship of U. S. Steel’s Great Lakes Fleet upon entering service. She also was quickly added to the winter navigation fleet, and it was noted that on January 11, 1973, she struck the stern of her fleetmate Philip R. Clarke while in an ice convoy in the Straits of Mackinaw.

The Blough suffered from vibration issues due to lack of water flow to her propellers. Throughout the 1970’s, engineers studied the vessel and worked out a solution to these problems. Tunnels were added in her stern to improve water flow. Her original propeller was eventually replaced with a skewed propeller to help smoothen her ride.

Due to the economic downturn of 1981, the Blough was laid up at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin from September 2, 1981 to September 27, 1987. She returned to service for the remainder of the 1987 season. In 1988, majority stock in USS Great Lakes Fleet was acquired by Blackstone Capital Partners. The Blough remained on her usual trade routes, with the only change being the addition of a black and grey diagonal stripe to either side of her bow.

The Roger Blough blew one of her engines in July 1992. She was able to run the remainder of the season on one engine, with the “blown” one being replaced while she was in winter layup at the Duluth Port Terminal.

Blackstone Capital Partners sold the fleet in 2004, being renamed Great Lakes Fleet, Inc. after ownership was transferred to the Canadian National Railway. The fleet’s ships remained under U.S. ownership.

The Roger Blough lost her rudder in the lower St. Marys River in August 2006 while downbound with ore for Gary, Indiana. Her fleetmate Edgar B. Speer, also bound for Gary, arrived on August 9, towing the Blough side-by-side to Gary where they unloaded. The Speer then took the Blough to Sturgeon Bay for repairs.

The Blough ran aground on the upper St. Marys River on May 27, 2016 near Gros Cap Reef lighthouse. She punctured her hull and flooded her forward ballast tanks. Freeing the Blough consisted of two days worth of lightering into her fleetmates Arthur M. Anderson and Philip R. Clarke. The Blough was freed and departed for Sturgeon Bay under her own power on June 11, being escorted by the tug Candace Elise. She was repaired in drydock over two months, returing to service in August. Repairs cost about $4.5 Million, and the incident was blamed on the Second Mate’s failure to navigate.

On February 1, 2021, a fire broke out onboard the Roger Blough while she was in winter layup at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, WI. She suffered extensive damage to her aft accommodations, unloading equipment, and engine room. It is currently unknown whether she will be repaired and return to service or not.


Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on February 15, 2021



Sources

Ahoy & Farewell II. Marine Historical Society of Detroit, 1996. Pp. 8-9.

Berry, Sterling P. “Blough, Roger”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 17 April 2020. <https://www.greatlakesvesselhistory.com/histories-by-name/b/blough-roger>

Devendorf, John F. Great Lakes Bulk Carriers, 1869-1985. John F. Devendorf, 1996. Pp. 188.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 4.7.

Miller, Al. Tin Stackers: The History of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. Wayne State University Press, 1999. Pp. 213-215, 217-220, 269-270.

Wharton, George. “Roger Blough”. Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 17 April 2020. <http://boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/RogerBlough.htm>