Artickle by Skip Gillham in the Special The Sarnia Observer, Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The former tanker Imperial Sarnia, once common around the local waterfront, is headed for scrapping in Port Colborne.
Known as the fuel storage barge Provmar Terminal II at Hamilton since 1987, the ship was due at the scrap berth of International Marine Salvage on Oct. 2 via tow on the Welland Canal.
The vessel was built at Collingwood and was launched on June 26, 1948. Imperial Oil named their newest and, at the time, largest tanker Imperial Sarnia the previous Imperial Sarnia ship became Imperial Hamilton.
The 118.87-metre-long by 16.15-metre-wide vessel entered service on Oct. 10, 1948, and could carry 55,000 barrels of petroleum products.
It originally concentrated on the run between Sarnia and Fort William now part of Thunder Bay but it later delivered western Canadian crude oil from the pipeline terminal at Superior, WI to the Imperial Oil refinery in Sarnia.
When the pipeline was extended to Sarnia, the ship was no longer needed on the inland lakes. It departed via the Mississippi River system in October 1953 as the small locks of the pre-Seaway era prevented departure by way of the St. Lawrence River system.
Imperial Sarnia sailed 8,288 km. to Sorel, QC and was rebuilt there by Marine Industries Ltd. for a new career on salt water. It returned to service in 1954 with a new seagoing bow now 124.57 metres long and able to carry 56,101 barrels.
Imperial Sarnia operated out of Halifax, serving Maritime Canada, the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and on occasion venturing overseas to Iceland and Europe. In the summer of 1957, the vessel headed north to Frobisher Bay, a first for Imperial Oil, and delivered aviation fuel for Scandinavian Airlines.
With the opening of the Seaway, and the retirement of smaller and older Imperial Oil tankers, Imperial Sarnia returned to its namesake port for service on the Great Lakes in 1965.
Service was interrupted by a serious grounding on Whaleback Shoal, near Brockville, on April 16, 1974. The vessel was lightered, released and taken to Montreal for repairs.
The ship was slated for retirement in 1979 but was still in good shape so the company had it drydocked. Also that year, an amazing string of 15 years without a time lost accident on board, was ended by a sprained ankle.
Built with a black hull, the vessel was later painted blue and was a popular ship with its sailors, known as the blue zoo.
On Dec. 14, 1986, Imperial Sarnia made its final Welland Canal trip, sailing to Hamilton. The ship was purchased by Provmar Terminals, renamed Provmar Terminal II and used to store fuel oil.
In June 1997 it was towed to Port Weller Dry Docks to remove its propeller, shaft and stern tube. It was then towed back to its station.
Following a sale for scrap late in the summer, the tugs Vigilant I and Lac Manitoba took the ship under tow and began the trip up the Welland Canal on Oct. 1.