What’s In Port: The First 1,000-footer Built at Bay Shipbuilding The “Walter J. McCarthy, Jr”


Tom Wenstadt, contributor

The merchant vessel (M/V) Walter J. McCarthy Jr. arrived Jan. 16 at the mouth of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where it anchored for the night. The next morning, the vessel backed six miles up the bay to the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding storage dock.

This vessel was the first 1,000 foot, self-unloading bulk carrier built at Bay Shipbuilding. It was built in two sections, then assembled in the new at-the-time 1,140-foot graving dock. The vessel was christened as the M/V Belle River, July 12, 1977, and she carried mostly coal. In more recent years, she began carrying taconite, an enriched form of iron ore.

On May 5, 1990, the vessel was renamed to its current name in honor of the retired CEO of Detroit Edison Co., American Steamship’s major customer.

The ship is 1,000 feet long and 105 feet at the beam (width), with a depth of 56 feet and a carrying capacity of 80,900 tons. She has a four, 3,600 horsepower EMD V-20 diesel engines turning two propellers and a bow-thruster, and has a self-unloading rate of 8,930 tons per hour.

The Walter J. McCarthy Jr. is easily recognizable as one of the longest boats in the fleet with an aft pilot house, an aft self-unloading boom, and a black hull with a white top. 

Come see her and her other 1,000-foot friends, at Fincantieri Bay

Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. There are viewing spots along the bay as well as from the Door County Maritime Museum Lighthouse Tower.

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