Tuesday 11 September 2012

General Cargo Vessel MELISSA DESGAGNES (Revisited)

After catching the ALGOSEA and HHL AMAZON motoring downbound below Iroquois Lock, we decided to head on down to catch a couple of upbounds at the Beauharnois Locks east of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. What a disappointment. Not only were there no upbounds anywhere in sight but there would be no place to view them anyway with all the fences and locked gates located all around the locks. I'm sure 9/11 had something to do with all the restrictions and rightfully so as that horrible day had just past it's eleventh anniversary. 

The good news is we were able to catch up to the 355' general cargo ship MÉLISSA DESGAGNÉS before she passed under Pont Valleyfield Bridge. We didn't have a lot of time because she was really pushing water before and after she made her way under the last bridge before entering Lake St. Francis.
Her name was ONTADOC when built in 1975 at Collingwood Shipbuilding for N.M. Paterson & Sons of Thunder Bay. Especially designed for deep-sea trading, the ONTADOC was the largest such vessel in the Paterson fleet at the time.
With the Paterson emblem displayed on her bow and flag flapping in a light breeze, the then ONTADOC waits her turn on a Welland Canal wall in this photo by Wayne Huggins of St. Catharines in the 1980's. Wayne believes her rustic appearance gives her character and shows to all she's a hardworking ship. I tend to agree. 
 Known to carry a variety of cargoes throughout the Great Lakes from steel to grain and corn, she loaded benonite in Chicago in August 1979 delivered it to Holland. To better service Arctic communities, two cranes were added in 1989. Since being purchased in 1990 by Désgagnés Transportation, the busy MÉLISSA DESGAGNÉS can be seen regularly along the Great Lakes, the Seaway and Atlantic seaboard.
Update: March 11, 2020:

It began to appear that the MÉLISSA's usefulness might be coming to an end when the versatile bulk carrier remained in layup at Quebec City when the 2016 shipping season on the Great Lakes began. However instead of being hauled away for scrap, the hardworking girl was sold that August to D&D Maritime of The Bahamas and flagged Tanzanian.
Renamed ETHAN, the new owners hired a group of workers to refit her for trading in the Caribbean however before the work was completed, the company ran into financial difficulties. Along with outstanding Port of Quebec City docking fees, the company was unable to pay the wages for the hired hands so they all left in 2017 except for two who remained on board and lived on ship. While continuing to work and hoping to be paid fully, the two squatters did occasionally receive money from D&D for necessities, but the local non-profit group for out of work mariners, "La Maison du Marin", also provided food, warm clothing and internet.
CBC Quebec photo
Seized by the Port of Quebec City, the former Paterson cargo vessel was auctioned off, selling for $150,000 (about a quarter of its asking price) to an unknown African company. With the two workers paid for their efforts, the ETHAN, flying the flag of Togo, left Quebec City on December 21, 2019 and is currently docked at Veracruz, Mexico. Her story continues for another day. Will keep you posted.

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