By William Hryb

Hillcrest was the perfect vantage point to see history in the making for the city and port of Thunder Bay. It was a clear and warm Indian Summer day, on Friday morning, September 27, 2013, when the MV Thunder Bay with Captain Murray Lathum at the helm, entered the port limits. Even from a distance, one could see the familiar CSL logo emblazoned on the massive ship’s red hull, marking the auspicious occasion, particularly on the 100th anniversary year of Canada Steam Ship Lines.

The MV Thunder Bay is the third of CSL’s Trillium Class self-unloading lakers that set sail on its maiden voyage from Chengxi Shpiyard in Jiangyin, China on May 29, 2013. The 740-foot-long vessel has a deadweight of 34,500 tonnes, and is equipped with a powerful diesel engine producing a whopping 14,521 HP. Over fifty CSL employees and contractors were in charge of the complex and challenging job of constructing the ships in China. The other two in the Trillium Class were named Whitefish Bay and Baie St. Paul. One additional ship in this class is set to join the Canada Steamship Lines fleet in 2013/2014.

Awaiting its arrival were City, Port and CSL officials headed by CSL President Louis Martel. At a reception held in honour of the MV Thunder Bay’s arrival, CSL’s President said, “The port of Thunder Bay is the gateway for Prairie farmers to export their grain via the Great Lakes / Seaway system to overseas markets in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.” Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs said, “The port of Thunder Bay and the marine shipping industry have long been an essential part of our local economy, creating jobs and helping to attract investment to our region. Fleet renewal by Canada Steamship Lines and other Canadian shipowners will help ensure that our port remains competitive and sustainable. We are honoured to have this beautiful ship named after our city.” The mayor and city were presented with a spectacular 500-lb, 8-foot model of MV Thunder Bay as a gift to the community.

In his closing remarks, CSL President Louis Martel paid tribute to the new Trillium Class vessels, saying, “We built these ships to meet the high environmental standards expected by the communities in which we operate … MV Thunder Bay and all Trillium Class vessels use 15 per cent less fuel, release fewer emission and dust, and provide outstanding operational efficiency.”

Greg Arason, Chairman of the Board of Thunder Bay Port Authority, said, “The investment in new state-of-art vessels for the Seaway provides confidence for the future. To have one of the first new ships named after Thunder Bay is a great honour.” With that statement in mind, Port officials were looking at the namesake for the port to be trading into Thunder Bay for at least the next 25-years.