Inland Marine History Archive - Logo

WMI 1969 Article

From The Journal, Lorain, Ohio Saturday, December 27, 1969

COMMUNICATIONS WITH Great Lakes ships are needed, but costly.
Great Lakes Communications Prove To Be Losing Proposition in Lorain

By MIKE MARLlER - Staff Writer

Operating ship-to-shore-radio-telephone communications on the Great Lakes is a losing proposition according to Wesley Goodell, manager of Field Operations for Lorain Electronics Corporation.

"Years ago," Goodell says, "we used to break even, but now, the decline in the number of ship-to-shore calls, coupled with an increase in the cost of labor and materials, we can't keep up."

Lorain Electronics Corp. operates Public Coast Station WMI, one of seven short- wave broadcasting stations around the Great Lakes, which provide weather information to the ships who ply their trade on America's "Inland Seas."  The firm also operates two other stations, one in Port Washington, Wisconsin and another in Duluth, Minnesota.

Each of the stations provides weather information around the clock, with eight regular broadcasts, and when conditions warrant, emergency broadcasts of severe weather that may be developing.

The Lorain station, and the others around the lakes, broadcast 24-hours a day, every day of the year.

WMI BROADCAST a warning of the savage July 4, 1969 storm some 20 to 30 minutes before the storm struck the Lorain - Cleveland areas, according to Goodell. He said the reason so many boaters were caught on the lake when the storm hit is probably because most of those in pleasure craft simply weren't listening to their radios when the warning was flashed.

The warning was sent on the internationally-used Safety and Calling Channel, 2182 kilocycles, Goodell said, with a follow-up broadcast on the Public Broadcast band, 2514 kc. Goodell said the station had been alerted of the movement of the storm by freighters on Lake Erie.

While it's easy to see the need for such service. Goodell says that financially, it's a losing proposition. The weather broadcasts are all provided free of charge by the firm, and the only compensation they receive is for ship-to-shore service, which Goodell says is diminishing rapidly.

The main factor in the decline. Goodell says,is the corresponding decline in the number of ships on the lakes. "Right after World II" Goodell says, "there were 400 vessels on the American side of the lakes. That number has dwindled to about 200 now he says, "and becomes fewer each year, as newer and larger ships replace older, smaller ones."

"The shipping people insist they need the service," Goodell says, "we find it un-profitable. We have to find a new way to finance the service," he said, "perhaps a government subsidy."

Goodell says it's very possible the Public Coast Stations could vanish, unless some way to support them is found. The Lorain Coast Guard Station says that, should stations, like WMI discontinue their service, there would be no similar service available on the lakes, since Coast Guard stations do not have the
necessary equipment for long-range broadcasts.

The Lorain station, which is housed in a one-story brick building on the end of Meister Rd., was the first radio station on the Great Lakes to provide radio-telephone service, when they went on the air in 1933.

Lorain Electronics Corporation itself is currently providing electronic equipment, including radar, depth finders and auto-pilots to the far-flung river boat system. They don't need the radio station. It would appear obvious however. that there is a need for the continuation of such a service on the Great Lakes, as well as a corresponding need for a greater public awareness of the existence of such stations, particularly among the boating public.

Unfortunately, unless some action is taken, the Public Coast stations, like WMI, Lorain. could become another memory in the history of shipping on the Great Lakes.

Back to the WMI page