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Sykes makes two more visits

By Samuel Hankinson • Dec 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM

The steamship Wilfred Sykes has been busy working the slag trade between the bottom of Lake Michigan and Grand Haven in recent weeks.

On Sunday, the Sykes arrived in port with slag for Meekhof’s D&M on Harbor Island. This cargo had been loaded in Burns Harbor, Indiana.

After unloading, the Sykes departed for Indiana Harbor, Indiana where another load of slag would be taken aboard for the D&M dock. By Tuesday morning, the vessel was back at D&M.

The Sykes has reached 20 visits to our port with these two trips and is easily our most frequent visitor of the season. This has typically been the case for the last few seasons. The last year the Sykes was here 19 times, in 2016 it logged 26 trips, and the year before that 24.

Slag is a byproduct of the iron and steelmaking processes. Ships load iron ore at Lake Superior ports like Superior, Wisconsin and Two Harbors, Minnesota for delivery to the various steel mills on Lake Michigan.

Vessels much larger than the Sykes unload the iron ore at docks in either Burns Harbor or Indiana Harbor. The ore is melted down and then the slag is skimmed off as the molten metal is poured.

After it cools, it is crushed up. Then the slag is ready to be loaded back aboard vessels. Front loaders feed the slag into onshore conveyor belts that deposit the slag into ships. Slag has uses as construction fill and for making asphalt materials, so it is typically a commodity that is in high demand by both the D&M dock and the Verplank dock in our port.

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