We Know Our Ships

We Know Our Ships

One of the essential pieces of literature here at the Port of Monroe is Know Your Ships. Over the years, KYS has become synonymous with the Great Lakes shipping industry. Know Your Ships was founded in 1959 by Thomas Manse at Sault Ste. Marie. It began as a small staple-bound publication with 44 pages that sold for 50 cents. With the help of advertisers and industry support, Know Your Ships has grown to 200 color pages. Today, Roger LeLievre continues Tom’s legacy by speaking at libraries, historical societies, and conventions about Know Your Ships and its contribution to the Great Lakes maritime community.

The book continues to be a resource for anyone interested in learning basic information about the vessels on the Great Lakes. It has changed lives and kickstarted careers in the maritime industry. Every year, photographers from all over the lakes contribute their sensational images to Know Your Ships, which helps the book share to its readers and fans the best of what the Great Lakes shipping industry has to offer.

After looking through a copy of Know Your Ships, one will understand what cargoes the ships on the Great Lakes carry, what a master salute is, and how to identify ships based on their smokestack markings. It provides statistics on all the American and Canadian-flagged ships, as well as the many different saltwater ships that visit the Great Lakes during the shipping season.

For the second straight season, we are proud to sponsor an exclusive “Port of Monroe” cover of Know Your Ships. On the front cover is Interlake’s motor vessel Mark W. Barker inbound on the River Raisin passing the Paul R. Tregurtha unloading at the DTE Monroe Power Plant. On the back cover is the Great Lakes Towing Tug Georgia docked with the Mark W. Barker using the Port’s turning basin in the background. Both of these images were captured by our Port Director Paul C. LaMarre III.

It is important for us to support Know Your Ships as it is the premier source for information about Great Lakes vessels. We frequently use it to reference vessel dimensions of the ships that call on the Port and also as a tool to educate those unfamiliar with our industry. Copies of Know Your Ships can be found all along the shores of the Great Lakes in bookstores. You can also order your own copy online at www.knowyourships.com.

See Our Way

As each of us stands upon our collective docks awaiting the first ships of yet another season on the Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway System, we must look within ourselves to see our way forward.

On June 26th, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, so aptly stated that “this waterway, linking the oceans of the world with the Great Lakes of the American continent, is the culmination of the dreams of thousands of individuals on both sides of our common Canadian-United States border.” It is with that notion in mind that we must once again acquaint ourselves with the passion that sets our collective vessel in motion.

The Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway system is not defined by any one cargo, vessel or voyage but rather by a diverse and dynamic culture of individuals from every corner of the Lakes themselves. “Our system” is one which places people before profit, consistency before competition, and pride before politics. In do so, we continue to fortify a cultural enigma of resolve, resilience, and reliability that is Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway Shipping.

With that, it is my great honor to serve our system as a mariner, Port Director, and President of the American Great Lakes Ports Association (AGLPA). While any of our respective roles are for but an instant in the annals of Great Lakes shipping, we can only hope to leave our mark in a way that inspires our fellow leaders, associates, customers, and the public we serve.

For me, having been immersed in our industry since birth, the Great Lakes represent a way of life. They define every aspect of my personal and professional being. My family has experienced our industry’s finest hours and most challenging moments. I have battled wind and wave in raging storms and plied the majestically calm waters of the mighty inland seas. I have stood before the challenge of barren waterfront facilities and reveled in the many milestones of a revived seaport. Inevitably, my inspiration through this journey, ashore and at sea, has been and will always be, the people who stand next to me.

Nowhere in the world is there another system of marine highways that is so deeply engrained within the fabric of the communities which surround it. Whenever one asks where we live, work, and recreate our most common answer is the “Great Lakes.” Not a particular neighborhood, street, city or state but rather the region as a whole. Why? Because we, as inspired people, are proud of where we are from and seek to share our overflowing abundance of industrial and ecological marvels for the good of our nations (U.S. & Canada).

While the Great Lakes St Lawrence Seaway system is not without its challenges, it is our response to those challenges which has hardened our ironclad identity. We must think of ourselves as one Great Lakes Port fighting to ensure that freight flows through our waterways because our system is the most environmentally conscious, efficient, and economical means of reaching the industrial heartland of America. We must tell our story in a purely positive manner that is one rivaled by our mutual admiration for each other’s efforts. We must diversify our cargoes while ensuring that commerce flows to its most logical destination despite the century old supply chains of our coastal competitors.

In closing, I am humbly appreciative of the opportunity to share what may be just a glimpse into the depths of my motivation and would like to express my sincerest thanks to my friend and our Seaway Administrator, Adam Tindall-Schlicht whose passion for our industry and persona of positivity can serve as an inspiration to all of us.

May the 2023 shipping season be filled with passion, inspiration and prosperity.

“Keep On Tuggin’”

Capt. Paul C. LaMarre III

This was originally published in the Winter 2023 edition of the Seaway Compass published by the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

The Start of a New Season

At the Port of Monroe, the most difficult part of our year is determining when the old shipping season ends and the new one begins. Other ports around the Great Lakes are closed for the winter, as are the Soo Locks and St. Lawrence Seaway, but the Port of Monroe has remained open.

Last week, the tanker Iver Bright called on our Turning Basin dock to discharge liquid asphalt. The tanker was assisted to and from the berth by the tug Georgia. The Georgia, one of many tugs operated by the Great Lakes Towing Company, provides ship assistance and icebreaking services so that vessels can safely call on the Port in the winter. There hasn’t been any ice to contend with in the River Raisin lately, but we’ve certainly had our share of winter weather.

This week, the Harvest Spirit made its first visit of the season, calling on our riverfront dock with a load of steel coils. The Harvest Spirit was built in 2012 at the Sefine Shipyard in Altinova, Turkey as the Zealand Juliana, and visited the Great Lakes a handful of times during its career on saltwater. Its name was shortened to Juliana in 2015 and McKeil purchased the vessel in 2020.

It is just over 500 feet long, 73 feet 10 inches wide, and 35 feet 5 inches deep. As its name suggests, the Harvest Spirit is primarily used to carry grain. These trips typically begin in Thunder Bay, ON and end at Windsor, ON. From Windsor, it is a quick trip across Lake Erie to Nanticoke, ON. where the ship’s steel coil cargoes originate from.

The steel is manufactured by Stelco and staged for shipment by vessel. The Harvest Spirit’s three deck-mounted cranes make it the perfect vessel to haul coiled steel. The Nanticoke-Monroe route is a year-round transportation solution for regional manufacturers, as it is much more efficient to move 500 or more coils by water than by truck or rail. Once the coils are offloaded at Monroe, the Port’s terminal operator DRM Terminal Services ensure that coils are efficiently loaded for last-mile delivery to customers.

After delivering coils to Monroe, the Harvest Spirit assumes its regular Thunder Bay-Windsor trade route. Since joining the McKeil fleet, the Harvest Spirit has become one of the most frequent callers to the Port of Monroe. It’s also one of the busiest ships on the Great Lakes, operating at a time while other cargo vessels are still wintering. That will change in the coming weeks, as crews report back to fit-out vessels in advance of the new shipping season. In Monroe, that season has already begun.

A Decade of Development at the Port of Monroe for Paul C. LaMarre III


Anything you have read about the Port of Monroe, Michigan in the last decade would not be possible without the leadership of Paul C. LaMarre III.

Paul is celebrating 10 years at the helm of the Port this season, and the rebirth of Monroe as a seaport is just one of many reclamation projects that he has conducted over the years.

His most notable work is saving the 1911-built freighter Col. James M. Schoonmaker, which is now the centerpiece at the growing National Museum of the Great Lakes. Paul became director of the scrapyard-bound museum ship in 2007 when it was known as the Willis B. Boyer and guided the ship through a massive restoration.

The ship was moved from its old berth in Toledo to its present dock in 2011. The process included a return to the ship’s original name and livery of the Shenango Furnace Company.

Completing such a monumental task would leave some people content, but not Paul. The retired Great Lakes Towing Company tug Ohio was restored in 2019 and dedicated to the museum in a joint ceremony with the new tug Ohio, christened by Paul’s wife, Julie.

When the 100-plus-year-old steamer St. Marys Challenger was converted to a barge at Sturgeon Bay in 2013, the pilothouse was removed and transported to Toledo on the deck of the thousand-footer Paul R. Tregurtha – an unconventional move orchestrated by Paul. The pilothouse was offloaded at Midwest Terminals and remained there until December 2021 when the final move to the museum was made. It was fitting then, that the St. Marys Challenger was also in Toledo that day, holding up a piece of her own heritage.

The projects don’t stop there- the pilothouse of the old tug Wm. A. Whitney is in Paul’s backyard, being restored. You can see the spotlight he installed shine all the way to Detroit River Light after dark.

There’s still room in his yard for more. Close friend Roger LeLievre, publisher of the book Know Your Ships, theorizes that with Paul’s unrelenting drive, he could get the Queen Mary in his backyard if he said he would.

Once complete, these restoration projects serve as relics to the past of the Great Lakes, honoring the heritage and history of the inland seas. In the present day, they serve an additional purpose: Making people believe.

Paul sketched the original layout for the National Museum of the Great Lakes on a napkin, when the future of the Schoonmaker, then-Boyer was in doubt. Restoring the ship and establishing it as the anchor for a larger museum development made people believers.

It was Paul’s passion for restoring the heritage of the Great Lakes that put him on the radar of other ports. He had given a number of presentations about Great Lakes history and the Schoonmaker at industry events, and the Monroe Port Commission took notice.

Paul took a rusting museum ship and established it as the unquestionable anchor of a larger development on Toledo’s waterfront, using his knowledge and passion of the industry to sell people on his vision.

The Port of Monroe, established in 1932, had been dormant for decades. Past eras of leadership left behind legacies of feasibility studies and advertising promotions that led to no cargo. The fit was obvious. When the commission decided to rebuild the port, they quickly determined that a director was needed to shape Monroe’s future, and Paul became the obvious candidate.

He became Port Director in 2012, at a port with no activity, outdated infrastructure, and a waterfront that had no indication of ever being used for port operations. It was a daunting task, but Paul set to work on identifying cargo in Monroe’s backyard that could be moved through the Port. That focus led to a partnership with DTE to manage synthetic gypsum produced from the Monroe Power Plant in 2014, which remains a foundational cargo at the Port.

From there, Paul combined his passion for the Great Lakes shipping industry with the need for speed he acquired first in his days flying F/A-18s in the Navy and later racing hydroplanes, and rapidly awakened the once-sleepy Port.

Monroe has notched six Pacesetter awards in Paul’s tenure as director, consistently celebrating new cargo evolutions and welcoming new ships. The Port has focused on niche cargo moves unique from traditional cargoes carried on the lakes, and welcomed several ships on their maiden trip into the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System.

In addition to earning an unlimited deck officer’s license, Paul is now working to attain a Masters of Towing license, which will give him more opportunities on the water. He’s also becoming an accomplished marine artist- just like his father, Paul C. LaMarre Sr.

Development is not limited to ships and ports, either. Paul has always taken a relationships-first approach to everything and is actively helping chart the course for the next generation of maritime leadership, whether that’s on the docks or on the boats. He’ll always lend an ear to anyone in the maritime industry looking for support.

Paul has preserved each and every activity the Port has undertaken in photos. Documenting everything shows the community how the Port has grown and highlights the Monroe County residents that work at the Port.

However, one of the most inspirational photos taken at the Port since Paul’s arrival doesn’t include a ship or a cargo. It’s a day-one snapshot showing an inactive port with overgrown trees as the only tenant. It helps remind everyone of where we came from.

Now, where can we go? The future is unwritten, but when it is, Paul C. LaMarre will be the one holding the pen.

Written by Samuel Hankinson

This article originally appeared in Seaway Review