Words by Dave McMillan, former CEO of Vard Marine Inc. (1989-2020)
In 1990, soon after joining Wartsila Marine, I was assigned the position as project manager for the new Niagara River icebreaker for Ontario Hydro. The company had previously designed an icebreaker performing winter duties for New York Power Authority (NYPA), and this customer required a similar vessel. Although very similar in many ways, the Niagara Queen II was given a vertical stem versus the more spoon-shaped bow on the NYPA design. The reason for the vertical stem was to allow the vessel to scrape slush ice off the vertical walls to maintain flow through the water intakes to the turbines. This was a critical task in the winter time.
The vessel was built at Hike Metal Fabricators located in Leamington, Ontario and delivered to the operating site above Niagara Falls in 1992. One interesting feature of the vessel is the lack of life-rafts onboard. The Canadian Coast Guard agreed that the last thing the crew would want to do in an emergency was jump into a life-raft and end up over the falls which were not that far away! Therefore, a small 8ft. aluminum tender was permitted as the safety boat. A unique but effective solution.