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U.S. Steel uses Port of Detroit for a serious Heavylift and we’ll all be breathing better air because of it


The m/v Floragracht is an ice class 1A state of the art self-unloading multipurpose/project vessel (tweendecker) that fits perfectly into the important role the St. Lawrence Seaway plays in serving the industrial and agricultural industries of the U.S. Midwest and most of Canada.

We can debate the pros and cons of the Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs but everyone in Southeast Michigan and Windsor, Ontario should be smiling about a recent Heavylift Import for U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes Works Steel Mill on Zug Island, as it will help all citizens in Southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario breathe easier….literally.

The m/v Floragracht, a 137-meter Dutch-flagged Spliethoff Great Lakes Service ship built in 2011 that comes into the St. Lawrence Seaway on a regular basis, made one of the last Port Calls of the 2018 Season in Detroit Dec. 17 at Nicholson Terminal-Ecorse.

The Port Call was made to unload a massive 100 metric ton “scrubber” that will be installed on one of the blast furnaces at Great Lakes Works, a major steel producing mill on Zug Island, which is an industrial island where the Rouge River empties into the Detroit River. The scrubber, shaped like a space rocket, is 31.13 meters L x 6 meters W x 6.08 meters H.

The expertise of Nicholson Terminal & Dock, Malcolm Marine and JJ Curran combined to turn Great Lakes Work’s Zug Island bulk receiving dock into a heavylift dock. After the short trip from Nicholson-Ecorse to Zug Island, the scrubber was transferred from barge to dock, where dozens of “mud mats” were placed to carefully distribute the weight of the cargo. From here, Great Lakes Work will add other parts to the scrubber before it is hoisted and installed in May to help clean the smoke emissions from one of the steel mill’s three blast furnaces.

The scrubber was manufactured in Germany and transported to the Port of Antwerp by river barge. The cargo was then transferred to ocean vessel at the Port of Antwerp; it was loaded on-deck after the ship’s three holds were loaded first utilizing two of the m/v Florogracht’s three 80-metric ton capacity self-unloader cranes. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean the ship arrived at the Port of Detroit about 3 pm on Dec. 17, as the Seaway’s Dec. 31 Winter Closing Date approached. The Detroit cargo was offloaded that afternoon directly onto a tug/barge owned and operated by Malcolm Marine Inc. of St. Clair, MI. The tug Captain Dave was pushing the Diane, a 150-foot x 50-foot deck barge.

The Captain Dave was docked at Nicholson-Ecorse awaiting arrival of the Floragracht. After the foreign vessel docked, the Captain Dave backed its way into position, tying up to the open water starboard side of the ship. At that point, the scrubber was carefully cabled and lifted off of the ship and onto the barge, with the job completing as darkness set in.

The transfer of the 100 metric ton scrubber from the m/v Floragracht to the tug/barge Captain Dave/Diane was a slow and carefully-orchestrated lift utilizing two of the Floragracht’s 80 metric ton self-unloading cranes working in tandem.

After offloading at Detroit, the Florogracht left Port early the morning of Dec. 18 to make its final 2018 Seaway call at the Port of Cleveland before exiting the Seaway. The Captain Dave docked at Nicholson overnight and the very next day it made the short trip to Zug Island and offloaded the scrubber at the Great Lakes Works dock that is normally used to offload Lake Freighter bulk material shipments. But in this case it doubled as a Heavylift Dock because the cargo was too wide to move via over-sized truck/trailer across the Zug Island Truck/Railroad Bridge.

To complete the delivery, dozens of large 12-inch thick mud mats were placed on the dock to stabilized and distribute the weight of the scrubber. JJ Curran brought in two 450-ton capacity cranes and operators to handle the offloading. JJ Curran is a crane rental, lifting and service company located on Detroit’s West Side since 1950.

Other pieces will be added to the scrubber before final installation which is scheduled for May 2019. Thanks to a major investment by U.S. Steel in Detroit, Spliethoff’s commitment to the St. Lawrence Seaway as an important gateway, and the talents and efforts of multiple Detroit-area service providers, two countries can celebrate clearing the air (of some industrial air pollution emissions).

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