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Ghost ship to finally be removed from Port of Chicago
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Ghost ship to finally be removed from Port of Chicago

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The long-rusting ghost ship that's been docked under a towering concrete grain elevator on Lake Calumet at the Port of Chicago will finally be moved after sitting there for decades.

The 620-foot long C-T-C No. 1, a Great Lakes shipping freighter that first set sail in 1943, has been a landmark on the Bishop Ford Expressway and a highly visible symbol of Rust Belt decline in the bi-state Calumet Region. The hulking ship on the lake just off the Calumet River is hard to miss, rusting away under the Illinois International Port sign just off a 10-lane highway.

The C-T-C No. 1 originally hauled cargo, including raw materials for steelmakers, across the Great Lakes, but had most recently been used for cement storage until 2009. The abandoned-looking bulk carrier is now colloquially known as the ghost ship or mystery ship.

Illinois International Port District Executive Director Clayton Harris III said ship owner Grand River Navigation, a division of Rand Logistics, should tow the ship away and scrap it in the next few weeks.

"The goal is to have it removed by the end of this month, but I don't know if that's truly going to happen," Harris said. "We're hopeful it will be removed by the end of the year, before the lake freezes."

The Maritime Class bulk carrier was built by Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan for $2.26 million 76 years ago. The ship was originally named the McIntyre, after an iron ore mine in the Adirondack Mountains, but was almost immediately renamed Frank Purnell after the president of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, according to the Boat Nerd website about Great Lakes shipping.

In its heyday, the self-unloading bulker could haul up to 16,300 tons of cargo in its four holds. In 1965, it was acquired by Bethlehem Steel Corp. and renamed Steelton after a steel mill in Pennsylvania. In 1974, it struck a bridge on the Welland Canal by Port Robinson in Ontario, causing extensive damage to the vessel and putting the bridge out of commission permanently, after it was determined repairs would cost up to $20 million.

Bethlehem sold the ship a few years later to Cement Transit Co. in Detroit, which turned it into a cerement storage barge — its current name C-T-C being an acronym for the company. It was towed by the tug boats John M. Selvick and Minnie Selvick to the Port of Chicago in 1982, where it was used to store and transfer concrete until a decade ago. It has since floated in limbo. 

Harris estimates the ship's metal will fetch over $1 million when scrapped.

"With no disrespect to where it's been, it's been a stigma on the port, being in the same exact spot for so long," Harris said. "It's been there forever. This will improve the aesthetic look of the port."

The ship's removal also will free up more dock space the port can lease out.

"The main benefit is the aesthetics," Harris said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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