Chicago River News

30 Jun 2017

It All Flows Downstream

Omni Catamaran cleaning Chicago waterway (Photo: Elastec)

Oil spills, trash, debris, sediment, chemicals: how do we keep our waterways clean? If an oil spill happens on water, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90) has very clear rules on who is responsible for paying for cleanup costs. Most oil spills can be traced to the spiller – a pipeline owner, oil tanker, shipper, railroad or trucking company. “Pointing a finger” at the alleged party may be why this type of pollution is referred to as “point source.” If the oil spill is ruled an accident and the polluter is not legally responsible…

05 Jun 2017

Volvo Penta Powers Chicago Sightseeing Boat

(Photo: Volvo Penta)

The newest addition to the Shoreline Sightseeing fleet in Chicago is powered by a pair of D13 400 hp Volvo Penta engines. MV Skyview is Shoreline’s first vessel with Volvo Penta engines, and according to Captain Chris LeBlanc, senior captain and Shoreline manager, Skyview is burning less than three gallons per hour for both engines during sightseeing tours. Other comparable boats in the fleet consume more than 10 gph. LeBlanc said the boat is smoother to run, easier to control and provides excellent torque, even at low RPMs, for docking and maneuvering in the narrow Chicago River.

16 Sep 2015

‘Trash Boats’ Help Keep Waterways Clean

Photo: Elastec

Elastec, a U.S. based manufacturer of pollution control equipment, is producing trash and debris collection boats to assist local governments in meeting Clean Water Act standards, aid in the reduction of floating pollutants in waterways and help protect aquatic ecosystems. The trash and debris collection vessel, designed to skim floating litter from harbors and waterways, can also be used for various marine maintenance duties from its 8- by 11-foot work platform. Designed to be maneuverable in hard to reach areas…

03 Jun 2015

Burger Boat Launches Wendella Passenger Vessel

Photo: Burger Boat Company

Burger Boat Company announced the launch of P/V Lucia, an 89-foot steel passenger vessel for Wendella Sightseeing Company, Inc. Lucia, designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., was launched into the Manitowoc River Friday, May 29 with her owners, the Burger staff and the Manitowoc community in attendance. Lucia is styled after other vessels in Wendella's fleet and will be used for its Combined Lake and River Tour, the Chicago River Architecture Tour, specialty cruises and private events.

08 Jan 2015

OP/ED: Knowing the Rules of the Road

Michael Borgstrom, President of Chicago-based Wendella Sightseeing Boats.

I am increasingly concerned about the interaction between commercial vessels and recreational craft on the Chicago River. Even more frequently my operation is encountering people in short-term rental craft such as stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and small electric boats who know little or nothing about the USCG Navigation Rules and who are not aware of the risks of operating on a narrow channel close to large commercial vessels. This year alone my crew has rescued seven persons in distress…

21 Oct 2014

Sunken Barge Salvage Stops Traffic on Chicago River

The U.S. Coast Guard said it is restricting vessel traffic on the Chicago River to allow for salvage of a sunken barge. All cargo has been removed from the sunken barge in the Chicago River between the Lake and Randolph Street bridges and divers are currently in the water to conduct a survey of the barge's hull. The barge has been secured so that a 50-foot clearance can allow for vessel traffic to transit. Once the divers complete their survey, the company intends to formulate a salvage plan to either move the barge to another location or lift it out of the water. Coast Guard assets are on scene to monitor vessel traffic while divers are in the water.

30 Jul 2014

Burger Boat to Build New Passenger Vessel

Image courtesy of Burger Boat Company

Burger Boat Company announced that it has received a contract for the construction of an 89-foot (27-meter) steel passenger vessel for Wendella Sightseeing Company, Chicago, Ill. Styled after other vessels in Wendella's fleet, this vessel will be used for their signature Combined Lake and River Tour, the Chicago River Architecture Tour, specialty cruises and private events. The 89-foot (27-meter) steel passenger vessel provides an enclosed, climate controlled main deck cabin where guests will find a striking black granite bar and room for socializing.

11 Jul 2014

Illinois River Lock Closure May Spur CME Grain Contract Tweaks

An upcoming river lock repair project in south Chicago has attracted the attention of exchange operator CME Group because the lock's closure could disrupt deliveries against its Chicago Board of Trade grain and soybean futures contracts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will close the 64-year-old T.J. O'Brien lock and dam on the Cal-Sag Channel for two phases of repairs beginning on Nov. 3 and again on Jan. 19. It is the northernmost of eight locks on the Illinois Waterway system, near the entrance to Lake Michigan. Each closure will halt traffic there for 47 days and could make it more difficult or costly for buyers of futures contracts to take delivery of grain housed in Chicago since the lock lies within the contracts' delivery zone 1.

23 Mar 2012

Yacht Club Adds Electric Boats to Fleet

Vantage Yacht Club Adds Sustainable Electric Boats to Its Rental Fleet. Vantage Yacht Club, the premier fractional club offering shared yacht ownership and creator of the Yacht Card, announced additions to its Fleet Membership and Non-Member rental fleets today with the delivery of four electric Duffy Boats. Vantage Yacht Club is proud to announce this first electric boat initiative in Chicago as it continues to lead the evolution of the yachting lifestyle. Electric boaters will cruise the Chicago River taking in the sights and sounds of the city while promoting environmental responsibility and sustainability. These zero-emission electric boats are available to rent by-the-hour beginning April 1, 2012 from 8:00 am until midnight, seven days a week.

22 Mar 2012

Electric Boat Hire Initiative in Chicago

Duffy Electric Boat: Photo credit Vantage YC

Vantage Yacht Club, offering shared yacht ownership announce additions to its Fleet Membership and Non-Member rental fleets with the delivery of four electric Duffy Boats. Arrival of the electric boats is the first such initiative in Chicago. Electric boaters will cruise the Chicago River taking in the sights and sounds of the city while promoting environmental responsibility and sustainability. These zero-emission electric boats are available to rent by-the-hour beginning April 1, 2012 from 8:00 am until midnight, seven days a week.

17 Jun 2011

A Unique new Fireboat for the City of Chicago

Photo courtesy Robert Allan LTD.

In April 2011, The Chicago Fire Department took delivery of a new Fireboat to replace the aging Victor L. Schlaeger. The vessel was named in memory of Firefighter Christopher Wheatley, who lost his life in active duty in 2010. The new vessel was designed by Robert Allan Ltd., Naval Architects of Vancouver BC, and was built by Hike Metal Products of (serendipitously!) Wheatley, Ontario. This fireboat is one of several fireboats designed by Robert Allan Ltd. and built in Canada for US cities in recent years…

04 Mar 2011

New Fireboat for City of Chicago

The  City  of  Chicago  recently  contracted  Hike  Metal  of  Wheatley , Ontario  Canada   to  construct  a  new  heavy- duty  NFPA  1925 Type  III Fireboat  to  replace  its  55  year old  fireboat. This  sleek  new  90-ft  boat   is  designed  to break  up  to  12  inches  of   first  year  ice  at  three  knots  and  can  therefore  operate  year  round  on  Lake  Michigan  and  the  Chicago  River . It  is  equipped  with  Caterpillar  marine  diesel  engines; two  1,0000hp engines  driving  the  main  fire pumps  for  a  total  delivery  capacity of  14…

16 Aug 2010

Blount Boats Delivers Sister Ship to Wendella

Photo courtesy Blount Boats, Inc.

The 89-ft steel excursion boat, Linnea built by Blount Boats for Wendella Sightseeing Company was completed and accepted on July 20, 2010. The vessel was delivered to Chicago via Erie Canal and began service on July 30th. The delivery for the Linnea is especially timely on account of the fact that Wendella Sightseeing, Chicago’s original tour boat company is celebrating its 75th season as one of the city’s premier sightseeing and tourism venues. The new Linnea was designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design of Sturgeon Bay…

11 Feb 2004

Wendella Crewmember Wins National Safety Award

With Rear Admiral Thomas H. Gilmour of the United States Coast Guard looking on, the Passenger Vessel Association named Diana Jones of Wendella the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Roger Murphy National Safety Award. Nearly 500 association members, who were gathered in New Orleans, recognized Ms. Jones for rescuing three people from the Chicago River, in two separate incidents on the same day! On the morning of June 25, 2003 Ms. Jones, along with Captain Michael Mackey were working aboard the RiverBus Alpha when the screams of bystanders alerted them to two men struggling in the Chicago River. Racing to the rescue, Ms. Jones, despite being a biscuit under a hundred pounds, pulled both men to safety and rendered assistance until the arrival of the Chicago Fire Department.

24 Jan 2002

Ferries Lead the Way

There are several quick conclusions you can draw about passenger boat construction in the new millennium. First it is a smaller market than 10 years ago with far fewer boats being built today than a decade ago. Secondly almost all of these vessels are built on the east or west coast. There are virtually no passenger boats being built in the south. Third, the number one vessel type being built is the ferryboat and more specifically the all-passenger ferry that shuttles people at 25 knots or better. In the years between 1987 and 1993 shipyards all over the country were building 600-passenger excursion-dinner boats in great numbers as sightseeing and dining vessels on America’s great rivers, lakes and bays became increasingly popular.

18 Aug 2000


Bollinger Shipyards, Inc., Lockport, La., has signed a contract to build two, 250-ft., double hull, jumbo coastwise service, single rake hopper barges for Tide Leasing, LLC, Birmingham, Ala. Construction has begun on the first barge and building of the second vessel will begin in August. Both are scheduled for delivery in November 2000. Overall, each barge will be 250 ft. in length, with a 52.5-ft. beam and 14-ft. depth and 11.5 ft. maximum draft. They will be built with .75-in. steel at the hopper bottoms and .625-in. steel at the hopper sides plus .5-in. T-1 liner plates on the bottom and upper sides of the hopper. Each will be able to carry up to 3,000 metric tons of coal and will operate out of Santa Marta, Colombia. Shearer and Associates, Inc., Metairie, La.

17 Aug 1999

Chicago's Little Lady Debuts

Mercury Skyline Sightseeing Boats has christened and placed into service its newest vessel, Chicago's Little Lady. Built by Freeport Shipbuilding of Freeport, Fla., the 149-passenger craft is classically styled, inspired by the perpendicular stem, graceful sheer and round stern of vessels such as former presidential yacht Sequioa. With a 17-ft. draft, the vessel can slip under the downtown bridges on the Chicago River, while the 120 passengers on the open upper deck have an unobstructed view of the city's architecture. Little Lady will be used extensively for narrated architectural cruises, beginning at Mercury Skyline's landing at Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue on the Chicago River. The vessel's hull measures 68 x 23 x 8.5 ft., and is constructed of steel to ABS specifications.

27 Aug 1999

Freeport Building For Chicago Company

Jim Murray of Freeport Shipbuilding will be delivering several more of his popular passenger vessels for the coming season. One, Chicago's Little Lady, will be delivered from the Florida yard along the intercoastal waterway and up through the Mississippi and Illinois River systems to Chicago for owners Bob and Holly Agra. Designed by Timothy Graul Marine Design of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., the 68 x 23-ft. steel-hulled vessel is of single-chine form with a plumb stem and round (almost a fantail) stern. She was intended to have a family resemblance to her big sister, 225-passenger Chicago's First Lady, but is an original design in her own right.

27 Jan 2000

Outstanding Passenger Vessels

Measuring 175 ft. in length, dinner cruise vessel Starship was recently delivered to Starship Cruise Lines of Biloxi, Miss. Boasting a mega-yacht style, the vessel was designed by Naval Architects Dejong & Lebet of Jacksonville, Fla., and constructed by Freeport, Fla.-based Freeport Shipbuilding. Plachter-Vogel Design provided interior architecture. USCG-Certified under Subchapter K for 600 passengers, plus 30 crew, Starship carries a Stability Letter for Partially Protected waters. The vessel is designed to have a 5-5.6 ft. full load draft enabling it to access some of the Biloxi area's more shallow waterways. The hull features tunnels to allow large enough propellers while minimizing the draft.

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