Weather delays close off busy Carmeuse shipping season

THE PHILIP R. Clarke was still being loaded Wednesday morning after a long weather delay and was joined by the John J. Boland. Boats left on the 2017 schedule include the Cason J. Callaway, Joseph H. Thompson, Great Republic and the tug Defiance and barge Ashtabula.  (Photo by Peter Jakey)
THE PHILIP R. Clarke was still being loaded Wednesday morning after a long weather delay and was joined by the John J. Boland. Boats left on the 2017 schedule include the Cason J. Callaway, Joseph H. Thompson, Great Republic and the tug Defiance and barge Ashtabula. (Photo by Peter Jakey)

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
The end of a busy shipping season at Carmeuse Lime & Stone of Rogers City has not come without several winter-like weather challenges during the final days.
According to area operations manager John Abbitt, the last of the stone from the 2017 shipping season is supposed to go out this week, but the blustery conditions caused delays at the Port of Calcite.
Another Tuesday wind event stopped the loading of the 647-foot long Philip R. Clarke Tuesday at 5 a.m. They got about 5,000 tons of stone on before loading ceased. The crew from the Clarke was shooting for 27,000 tons.
“We are under a 12-hour wind delay,” said production manager Chris Schuch, Tuesday just after the noon hour. “We are trying to button up by Saturday, but with the weather, everything is being pushed back a little bit. We are just waiting to see what the boats can do when the weather lets up. If they can come in, we’ll load them.”
The winds were up to 30 mph along the Lake Huron shoreline. “The boats are not going to move until they get a good forecast,” said Schuch.
Abbitt said there was almost 10 million tons of stone shipped through the plant this year, an increase of about 60 percent from 2016. It was around six million a year ago.
The Carmeuse work force had been going 24/7 for close to four months up until last week.
There was significant down time caused by a new dredge pump that put everything behind.
“We just could not catch up,” said Abbitt. “We just kept going on the 24-hour cycle day. We were hoping to catch up and back off, but we never did.”
Schuch said, “We have had a challenging year both with equipment and increased demand, but the guys have pulled together and we have done OK. We have met the bulk of our target and they are just trying to finish up the shipping season, and do it safely.”
“Everybody has done a really good job this year,” said Abbitt. “The most important thing to us is that everybody works safely and does not get injured. Here at the end of the year, everybody did a good job with keeping safety a priority.” He said there were a few injuries; however, none were significant.
During the winter months, the new north dock shuttle will be completed and prepared for the start of the 2018 season.
“We have a fines-recovery process we will start implementing this winter,” said Abbitt. “That will be to increase our total yield out of the quarry.”
He also said there are a lot of maintenance projects to take on.
“Now that we are doing 10 million tons through the mill a year, there is a lot to catch up on, but also to get ready for next year,” said Abbitt. He is not 100 percent sure it will be 10 million tons, but that’s what the crew will be planning for.