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​1940 Ford Rouge Complex unloading an ore freighter.
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 Ford Sells Great Lakes Ore Boats, Ending Historic Shipping Era at the Rouge

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Editor's Note: Each Thursday, @Ford Online takes a look back at Ford heritage moments from the company's past.
 
DEARBORN - On March 13, 1989, Ford Motor Company agreed to sell its Great Lakes ore boats to a Cleveland-based steamship firm, Lakes Shipping Co. Inc., ending a chapter in the company's history that began with the construction of the Rouge Plant by Henry Ford made steel at the Rouge Complex beginning in 1919, a key element of Henry Ford's original plan to operate the Rouge plant as a highly integrated manufacturing complex.Ford.
 
Continuous flow – "from earth to assembly" as it was called – was at the core of Ford quest for vertical integration.  In Henry Ford's words, the idea was to achieve a "continuous nonstop process from raw material to finished product with no pause even for warehousing or storage."
 
The Rouge Shipyard became the destination of the massive lake freighters filled with ore, coal, rubber and lumber as well as other materials.
 
At the Rouge, one could see the giant ships unloading the ore and coal going into ovens to make coke, steel and glass and then see the materials formed into parts, panel stampings and engines and finally see it all come together on the assembly line with a finished car driving off the line.
 
Starting in 1924, a succession of ore ships bearing the name Benson Ford and Henry Ford II were in operation, while the name William Clay Ford started use in 1953, all of which were all frequent sights on the Detroit River.
 
In 1981, steel-making operations at the Rouge became a part of a new and independent company.  When these operations were then sold to Rouge Steel in 1989, Ford gave up ownership of all Rouge River frontage and boat docks.

1946 Ford ore freighter Benson Ford
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1978 Ford ore freighter Henry Ford II 

 

  

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3/15/2012 6:00 AM