Wilfred Sykes

Wilfred Sykes

1949-Present

Wilfred Sykes arriving at Grand Haven, Michigan, April 15, 2020. Photo by Sam Hankinson

Specs

Build Information

Year Built: 1949

Builder: American Shipbuilding Co., Lorain, OH

Hull #866

Registry: U.S. 259193

IMO #5389554

Laid Down: November 1, 1948

Launch Date: June 28, 1949

Commissioned: April 19, 1950

Construction

The Wilfred Sykes was constructed in 1949 as a gearless bulk carrier by American Shipbuilding Company at their Lorain, Ohio, shipyard, for Inland Steel Company. The design staff at American Shipbuilding were given simple instructions when the Sykes was ordered, being told to design the largest possible ship to navigate the Great Lakes at the time, without consideration of past design practices. The new ship would prove to be very innovative, introducing design features that would influence Great Lakes ship design for over two decades.

The new design features in the Wilfred Sykes included a an aft deckhouse that extended to the limits of the hull at the stern, a poop deck with a deck house on top, a sleek stack, raked stem, and a tunnel that ran the length of the ship, allowing crew members to travel between any point on the ship without having to step foot on deck.

The Wilfred Sykes was originally constructed as a gearless bulk carrier, with large box holds designed for maximum efficiency for carrying iron ore and coal. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1975, and her self-unloading equipment consists of a single hold belt leading to an aft loop-belt system to a 250′ deck-mounted boom.

Modifications

  • Converted to a self-unloader, Fraser Shipyards, Superior, Wisconsin, 1975.

General Stats

As Constructed

Length Overall: 678′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 660′

Breadth: 70′

Depth: 37′

Loaded Draft: —

Capacity: 12,729 Gross Tons, 7875 Net Tons

Vessel Type: Gearless Bulk Carrier

Number of Cargo Holds: 3 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: -7-7-6]

Number of Hatches: 20 [Dimensions: 44’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore Trade

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1

After Conversion to Self-Unloader, 1975

Length Overall: 678′

Length Between Perpendiculars: 660′

Breadth: 70′

Depth: 37′

Loaded Draft: 27’08”

Capacity: 21,500 Tons

Vessel Type: Loop-Belt Self-Unloader

Self-Unloading Boom Length: 250′

Number of Cargo Holds: 6 [Hatch-Hold Arrangement: 3-3-4-3-3-2]

Number of Hatches: 18 [Dimensions: 44’x11′]

Primary Operations: Ore, Stone Trades

Propellers: 1

Rudders: 1


Engineering Equipment

Original

Engine

Engine Type: Steam Turbine

Engine Manufacturer: Westinghouse Electric Corp., Pittsburgh, PA

Engine Model: Compound Steam Turbine

Number of Engines: 1

Rated HP: 7700 SHP


Boiler

Boiler Type: Oil-Fired Water Tube Boilers

Boiler Manufacturer: —

Boiler Size: 9732 sq. ft.

Number of Boilers: 2


History

Lineage

Wilfred Sykes – 1949-1957

Owner: Inland Steel Co., Chicago, IL

Operator: Hutchinson & Co., Cleveland, OH

Flag: United States

Home Port: Indiana Harbor, IN


Wilfred Sykes – 1957-1998

Owner: Inland Steel Co., Chicago, IL

Operator: Inland Steel Co.

Flag: United States

Home Port: Indiana Harbor, IN


Wilfred Sykes – 1998-2008

Owner: Indiana Harbor Steamship Co., Indiana

Operator: Central Marine Logistics, Griffith, IN [chartered to Ispat International]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Indiana Harbor, IN


Wilfred Sykes – 2008-2020

Owner: Indiana Harbor Steamship Co., IN

Operator: Central Marine Logistics, Griffith, IN [chartered to Arcelor Mittal]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Indiana Harbor, IN


Wilfred Sykes – 2020-Present

Owner: Indiana Harbor Steamship Co., IN

Operator: Central Marine Logistics, Griffith, IN [chartered to Cleveland-Cliffs]

Flag: United States

Home Port: Indiana Harbor, IN


Her Story

The Wilfred Sykes was constructed in 1949 as a gearless bulk carrier by American Shipbuilding Company at their Lorain, Ohio, shipyard, for Inland Steel Company. The design staff at American Shipbuilding were given simple instructions when the Sykes was ordered, being told to design the largest possible ship to navigate the Great Lakes at the time, without consideration of past design practices. The new ship would prove to be very innovative, introducing design features that would influence Great Lakes ship design for over two decades.

The keel for the Sykes was laid on November 1, 1948, under the watchful eye of Captain Henry Kaizer, Senior Fleet Captain for Inland Steel. Captain Kaizer would oversee the construction and sea trials of the new ship, being assigned her first captain. Unfortunately, he passed away before the Sykes sailed on her maiden voyage. The ship was christened Wilfred Sykes and launched into the waters of the Black River at Lorain, Ohio, on June 28, 1949. She entered service on April 19, 1950, under the command of Captain George Fisher, departing Lorain to load coal at Toledo, Ohio.

The Wilfred Sykes set many cargo records in early seasons on the Great Lakes, loading her first record cargo on November 7, 1950, with 19,120 tons of ore at Superior, Wisconsin. Other record cargoes included 21,223 tons of iron ore loaded at Superior, Wisconsin, on August 27, 1952.

The Wilfred Sykes assisted in the rescue operations for the crew of the steamer Henry Steinbrenner, which sank on Lake Superior on May 11, 1953. The crew of the Sykes were commended for their bravery.

Until the 1957 season, the Inland Steel fleet was managed by Hutchinson & Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Inland Steel created their marine department in early 1957, taking over management of their ships.

During the 1973 season, the Wilfred Sykes had two incidents at Thunder Bay, Ontario, the first being that she struck an ore dock, and the second being that she grounded, damaging approximately 150′ of hull on August 5, 1973.

In early 1975, the Wilfred Sykes was converted to a self-unloader by Fraser Shipyards in Superior, Wisconsin. Her cargo hold bottom was removed and sloped cargo hold sections were installed, with a single belt running underneath the hold. Breaking from habit once again, the Sykes‘s loop belt casing and unloading boom were located on a trunk deck forward of the aft accommodations. She underwent sea trials on with her new equipment on July 1, 1975, loading her first cargo as a self-unloader on July 9.

The Wilfred Sykes was involved with the search operations for the missing steamer Edmund Fitzgerald, which foundered near Whitefish Point on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975.

Throughout the 1980’s, the Sykes strayed from her usual taconite trades, carrying more stone cargoes to keep busy during the economic downturn. She rarely visited the eastern lower Great Lakes, with notable visits on September 14, 1986, and April 10, 1998.

In 1998, Inland Steel was purchased by Dutch steelmaker Ispat International, taking over Inland Steel operations on July 15, 1998. Inland’s fleet was in turn sold to Indiana Harbor Steamship Co. to remain Jones Act-compliant. The vessels were operated by Central Marine Logistics, being chartered by Ispat.

In April 2002, the Wilfred Sykes made trips into the Saginaw River for the first time, marking the beginning of a trend, as over the next few seasons, she would visit that river multiple times. Also during this time, she was involved in carrying ore from Marquette, Michigan, to Detroit, Michigan.

Since the 2005 season, she has mainly been consigned to the Lake Michigan stone trade, loading at northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron docks for Lake Michigan ports.

The Sykes operated under charter to Ispat International until 2008 when Ispat was involved in a European steel manufacturer merger. The vessels were then chartered by Arcelor Mittal, the resulting firm of the merger.

On April 18, 2017, the Wilfred Sykes loaded the last cargo of taconite pellets from Escanaba, Michigan. The ore dock closed for good afterwards.

In Fall of 2017, the Sykes suffered from boiler issues, resulting in her boilers being rebuilt over the winter at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The Wilfred Sykes made several unusual trips to Lake Superior to load ore, and to the Port Huron/Detroit region during the 2018 season. She would visit Lake Superior once again in 2019.

The Wilfred Sykes continues to be an active member of the Central Marine Logistics fleet, serving the Lake Michigan stone trades.


Compiled By Brendan Falkowski

Updated on June 18, 2020


Gallery


Sources

Bawal, Raymond A., Jr. Twilight of the Great Lakes Steamer. Inland Expressions, 2009. Pp.21-25.

Berry, Sterling P. “Sykes, Wilfred”. Great Lakes Vessel History: Vessel Histories of Sterling P. Berry. N.d. Accessed 18 June 2020. <https://www.greatlakesvesselhistory.com/histories-by-name/s/sykes-wilfred>

Devendorf, John F. Great Lakes Bulk Carriers, 1869-1985. John F. Devendorf, 1996. Pp. 168.

Greenwood’s Guide to Great Lakes Shipping 2016, Harbor House Publishers, 2016. Pp. 4.16.

Thompson, Mark L. Queen of the Lakes. Wayne State University Press, 1994. Pp. 144-149.

Wharton, George. “Wilfred Sykes”. Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping Online. N.d. Accessed 18 June 2020. <http://boatnerd.com/pictures/fleet/WilfredSykes.htm>