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The Gemini Calls On Riverside Park

by Jim Hebert,

April 17, 1996. The 430-ft Cleveland Tanker's motor vessel Gemini became the first Great Lakes tanker to call on Detroit's Riverside Park in recent memory. Upbound through the Detroit River enroute to Sarnia, the vessel was halted by traffic control as a result of continuing ice jams on the St. Clair River. Finding the lower Detroit River already quite full of waiting ships, the Gemini moored alongside the seawall at Detroit's Riverside Park, just south of the Ambassador Bridge Tuesday.

Beside the occasional visit from the research vessels Lakes Guardian or Laurentian, the last ship to tie to the pier at this location was the ferry/cruise-ship Aquarama .

The normal inhabitants of the park--fishermen, lunchtime visitors, bums and vagrants--found the Gemini tied up to the old bollards of the pier all afternoon Wednesday. The warm weather brought quite a few down to take a look. With the ten-foot-tall message NO SMOKING on the Gemini's pilot house glaring in the bright April sun, park residents enjoyed a cigarette or two while admiring the vessel.

The Gemini was in ballast and headed for Sarnia for a wash down of her tanks and then a load of caustic soda. Her normal route is Buffalo to Chicago, carrying 70,000 barrels of gasoline. (A "barrel" is 42 gallons, for a capacity of 2,940,000 gallons!) She is powered by twin 16-cyclinder disel engines, with a total of 5,000 horsepower, and sports twin screws and rudders. Her single stern anchor, shown here, features an unusual guard designed to keep it clear of the rudders and propellors.

A few crew members used the unscheduled docking to walk over to the nearby J. W. Westcott company for refills on supplies and stretch their sea legs in the park.

Park fishermen suspected that there were some big walleyes hiding under the 65-ft beam of the Gemini, but as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, none had been hooked.

Historical Note

The Gemini's sister ship, Jupiter, was involved in a marine disaster in Bay City, Michigan on September 16, 1990. The Jupiter was moored to a pier and discharging its cargo of gasoline, when a passing ship, Buffalo , created a surge that broke her loose. A fire and explosion ensued, and one man was drowned. There was considerable legal action taken, ultimately resulting in an ejudication that was subsequently appealed by the owners of the Buffalo. The findings of the Court of Appeals upheld the original decision, which assigned 50% of the responsibility to the Buffalo (for her excessive speed), 25% to the dock operator (for rotten wood pilings) and 25% to the Jupiter (for improper procedures in unloading her cargo). It makes interesting reading.

The report of the National Transportation and Safety Board is available. See:

NTSB Report Number - MAR-91-04 , Adopted on 10/29/1991 .
Order NTIS Report Number - PB91-916404 . 
Title: Explosion and Fire Aboard the U.S. Tankship Jupiter
Bay City, Michigan September 16,1990.

Copyright © 1996 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: November 26, 1997;