Investigators from the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are examining the May 27 grounding of the 858’x105’x41’ bulk carrier Roger Blough, which remained stuck Wednesday on Gros Cap Reef in Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior.
Divers from the Houston-based salvage firm Donjon-Smit LLC are conducting an underwater survey to determine any damage the vessel sustained in the Friday afternoon grounding, according to Coast Guard officials based in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
The vessel’s vessel response plan was activated to take environmental precautions, including coordination with the owners’ oil spill response organization to deploy oil containment equipment, including some 6,000’ of boom delivered to the site. Divers and soundings inside the hull showed flooding was under control, the Coast Guard said. A salvage plan has been submitted to U.S. and Canadian officials for review and approval, with lightering operations scheduled to begin later this week.
“All indications thus far seem to reveal that the damage is in the forward section of the vessel and all fuel tanks are in the rear section,” Ken Gerasimos, a representative of Key Lakes Inc., Duluth, Minn., the operating company of the Roger Blough, said in a joint statement issued through the Coast Guard. “No fuel tanks are connected to the outer skin of the ship.”
The 140’x37’6”x12’6” cutter Mobile Bay, based at Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., established a 500- yard safety zone around the Blough to keep passing vessels away from salvage operations. The Sault Ste. Marie Vessel Traffic Service has also increased oversight on commercial traffic to ensure shipping has safe passage near the safety zone.
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary air crews kept up surveillance of the waters for any sign of pollution, and Coast Guard officials expressed confidence that the chance of any spills remain minimal.
A Great Lakes ship of traditional lines, the Roger Blough is a self-unloading taconite ore carrier, christened in 1972 for a retired board chairman of the U.S. Steel Corp.