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88-Year-Old Freighter That Sank Completes First Trip

May 27, 1986

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (AP) _ An 88-year-old freighter that sank at dock in the Milwaukee harbor in 1979 has completed its first voyage on the way back to full-time work as a Great Lakes cement carrier.

The 400-foot E.M. Ford arrived Monday from Milwaukee for a detailed inspection required before it regains status as an active ship on the lakes.

The E.M. Ford, originally named the Presque Isle, was loaded with cement when it broke free during a storm Dec. 24, 1979, and sank in 28 feet of water. The battering against the dock tore a hole in the bow.

The vessel, owned by the Cement Division of National Gypsum Co. of Alpena, Mich., was raised in January 1980.

It was towed to a Sturgeon Bay shipyard where the 7,000-ton cargo of cement, which had hardened while underwater, had to be broken into chunks to be removed.

The freighter was put in dry dock for other major repairs and then returned to Milwaukee, where it has been used for storage for several years. National Gypsum has one of its 12 cement distribution plants in Milwaukee.

The vessel, powered by an oil-fired steam engine, passed federal inspections Friday and received a temporary permit from the Coast Guard for the trip to Sturgeon Bay.

The freighter will spend about three days in dry dock for a detailed examination that active ships must undergo every five years, said Capt. Don Ghiata.

Lawsuits filed as a result of the sinking are pending.

National Gypsum sued Milwaukee for $6.5 million, saying port officials assigned the ship to a dock especially vulnerable to the winds. The city filed a $250,000 damage suit against a marine contracting firm, contending its negligence caused the ship to break loose.

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