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Four ships named Baker

The first conventional ore freighter named Melvin H. Baker unloaded its cargo using a shore side clam shell or "grab" crane. It was loaned to the government during World War II. It was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat off the cost of Brazil on June 6, 1942. All crew members survived and some even spotted the U-boat sailing away.


Melvin H. Baker I
The Melvin H. Baker I (so referenced only after the introduction of Melvin H. Baker II) was the first self-unloading bulk carrier built in 1946 by German shipbuilder, A.G. Wesser from a conceptual design by visionary Ole Skaarup. It featured automatic, self-unloading conveyors.

It went into service on August 1, 1956 with a Chinese crew of 44. During its service to National Gypsum, the Melvin H. Baker I transported 23 million tons of gypsum, made 1275 voyages, covering 2 million nautical miles. Except for two trips to Rotterdam with coal, it carried gypsum until its last visit to Halifax on March 9, 1994. It took a load of gypsum to the Baltimore plant.

All of the Baker crews were Chinese and its first captain, Peter Thomas Chow was married on board. In September 1986, the ship made a rescue at sea. This is the account from a company publication "People to People:"

Had it not been for the calm weather conditions shortly after midnight on Sept. 15 this year (1986), Captain Lin and his crew would never have rescued five men from drowning. Two fishing boats, an oil tanker and a bulk carrier had already passed the men, unable to hear their cries for help.

The water-logged boaters had been in the ocean near Cape May, NJ, since 7 a.m. when their speedboat, the Super Heat, raced over a swell, nose-dived into the water and sank. For more than 18 hours, three men hung onto a red float, while the others drifted nearby. Each wore a flotation jacket.

"It scared me to hear cries for help so close," Captain Lin said. "At first I thought there was a man overboard, but I quickly realized my crewmen would have called for help in Chinese."

The crew determined approximately from where the sounds were coming. Then they circled and ran the same course, starting and stopping to engine to avoid machinery noise.

When the crew heard three of the men about two or three hundred feet away, they turned on the spotlights and notified the Coast Guard. A lifeboat was lowered, and the shivering boaters were pulled from the ocean.

"They were so weak, they couldn't climb the gangway," Captain Lin said. "We carried them on board, gave them dry clothes and fed them."

By that time, a Coast Guard helicopter began searching for the other two men. They had been looking since they received a distress call early in the day, but were unsuccessful until they got directions from the Baker.

The helicopter eventually found the other missing boaters and airlifted them to a nearby hospital. Then it returned to lift the three men from the Melvin H. Baker. All the men were treated at the hospital for exposure and released.


"The chance of hearing their cries was very, very slim. If they had been on the other side of the ship, we would have never heard them because the wind would have carried the sound away from us. Those men were very lucky."

National Gypsum had a long-term charter for Melvin H. Baker I from Skaarup Shipping Corporation. Skaarup sold the ship in 1994, but maintained its management. The new owners, Hon Tai Shipping of Taiwan put her to work in the Far East. She was delivered to ship breakers on December 24, 2009, still bearing the Melvin H. Baker I name.


Melvin H. Baker II
Company took delivery of the Melvin H. Baker II on April 16, 1994 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her maiden voyage was to Savannah.

This bulk carrier measures 736' 16" – nearly 2 ½ football fields long – and 75' 10" wide. It can carry 38,000 tons of gypsum rock.

This Baker was built in 1984 as a Great Lakes bulker and converted to an oceangoing vessel in 1988. It was called the Atlantic Huron before it became Melvin H. Baker II.

Through a contest, company associates selected the Baker name for the ship. The company leases this ship from CSL International, a division of Canada Steamship Lines.

One of the ship's unusual features is a versatile, highly-efficient unloading system, including a boom that can be adjusted to meet different port needs. It can deliver into receiving hoppers or directly to a rock pile. The crew can adjust the belt length while en route to the next port. The long boom – 263 feet – fits Portsmouth. The short boom, which is 70 feet from the pivot point (midship) is used at Rensselaer, Burlington, Baltimore, Wilmington, and Savannah.


MH Baker III
The company took delivery on February 27, 1997 of the MH Baker III in 1997 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship had been built in 1981 as a Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway ocean bulker. Her name was changed from Atlantic Superior to MH Baker III and the maiden voyage to Tampa was on April 6, 1997.

This ship measures 730 feet – nearly 2 1/2 football fields long – and 75 feet, 10 inches wide. It can carry 38,000 tons of gypsum rock. The company leased the ship from CSL International, a division of Canada Steamship Lines.

The long boom – 261 feet – fits Portsmouth, Burlington, Baltimore (after 1998 expansion), Wilmington, Savannah, and Tampa. The ship's time charter ended on April 1, 2003 and her name was changed back to Atlantic Huron.

Currently, there are no ships at sea bearing the Melvin H. Baker name.