Birchglen and the North Pier Light

The Birchglen was built as the Canada Marquis in Govan, Scotland in 1983. It has been here many times as the Federal Richelieu and then the Federal Mackenzie. It became the Birchglen in 2002 when it was sold to Canada Steamship Lines. It has been at anchor off the Superior entry and should come in today to load coal for Belledune, a small port in the province of New Brunswick, which sits just north of Maine.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-05-2006

Birchglen comes in from anchor

The Birchglen has been at anchor off the Duluth piers since yesterday. It should be coming in this morning to load grain. This Canadian flagged ship visited here many times as the saltie Federal Mackenzie. Last year, it was here loading taconite for China.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 05-09-2005

Birchglen to transit Panama Canal

The Birchglen is loading 25,000 gross tons of UTAC pellets for Laiwu, China. It is the first saltie to load at the DM&IR Dock in West Duluth since the mid-eighties. When loading is complete sometime this afternoon, the Ukrainian crewed ship will depart Duluth for China, using the Panama Canal to get to the Pacific Ocean and then on to China.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 10-20-2004

Birchglen sails the world

Prior to December, 2002, the above ship (here arriving Duluth on Saturday afternoon) was called the Federal Mackenzie. It was a salt water ship taking grain from Duluth to many ports in the world. Then Canada Steamship Company purchased it, renamed it the Birchglen and it became a Canadian laker. Still owned by Canada Steamship, it is now back flying a foreign flag and working the oceans under charter to Fednav in Montreal.
*submitted to the Duluth News Tribune for publication on 08-15-2004

Three ships built in Scotland

Above, Spruceglen, October 26, 2003
Above, Birchglen, July 7, 2012
Above, Kaministiqua, August 4, 2013

In 1983, three ships were built in Govan, Scotland by Misener Transportation, a Canadian shipping company. One was the Selkirk Settler, later to be the Federal St. Louis, Federal Fraser, Fraser and in 2007, the Spruceglen. The second ship was built as the Canada Marquis, then the Federal Richelieu, Federal Mackenzie, Mackenzie, and in 2002, the Birchglen. The third, the Saskatchewan Pioneer, became the Lady Hamilton, then the Voyageur Pioneer, and in 2008, the Kaministiqua.

Misener wanted ships that could work all year round and not sit out the long, cold winters in Canada when Great Lakes shipping closes down. These would be heartier vessels made to navigate the many locks, rivers and ports within the Great Lakes, but could also venture out onto the world’s oceans where they would need to operate as salt water ships on the oceans of the world, enduring storms often fiercer than ever seen in the exciting, but still calmer waters of the Great Lakes.

At one time, Canadian companies were not allowed to buy a ship built in a country that is not a commonwealth country. Most salties that come to Duluth have been built in countries that were not part of the English Commonwealth. Many are built in Japan, China, Argentina, Holland, and Poland, meaning none of them could be purchased by Canadian companies. These three sisters were built in Govan, Scotland, in 1983, and thus were legal.

Selkirk Settler: 1983-1991
Federal St. Louis: 1991-1991
Federal Fraser: 1991-2001
Fraser: 2001-2002
Spruceglen: 2002

Canada Marquis: 1983-1991
Federal Richelieu: 1991-1991
Federal Mackenzie: 1991-2001
Mackenzie: 2001-2002
Birchglen: 2002-2015 (scrapped)

Saskatchewan Pioneer: 1983-1995
Lady Hamilton: 1995-2006
Voyageur Pioneer: 2006-2008
Kaministiqua: 2008-

That is why they were built in Scotland; how they were named is even more interesting. Parts of Western Canada were settled by immigrants from Scotland who were brought over with the help of Lord Selkirk. He founded a settlement that eventually became Winnipeg. His followers were called Selkirk Settlers. By the time they got to western Canada, they had become Saskatchewan Pioneers. The pioneers endured many hardships, and had repeated failures trying to grow crops, particularly wheat. They needed faster-maturing wheat because of the shorter growing season. After many futile attempts, a variety of wheat was developed that worked great. That wheat was called Canada Marquis.

I was not around when these ships visited Duluth under their original names. By 1996, when I arrived, they had all been purchased by FedNav, a Canadian shipping company in Montreal.

Around 2001, Fednav was looking to part ways with these ships. To begin with, the name ‘Federal’ was removed. In 2001, the Federal Fraser became the Fraser and the Federal MacKenzie became the MacKenzie. That was the first step to getting FedNav entirely out of 2/3rd’s of the family. In 2002, FedNav sold the Fraser and Mackenzie to the Canada Steamship Company of Toronto. The Fraser became the Spruceglen and the MacKenzie became the Birchglen.