The ice may be gone, but Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie was busy with new problems when a bulk carrier loaded with stone from a Canadian quarry ran hard aground in Michigan’s St. Mary’s River on Wednesday. The river is a 70-mile connecting channel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
The 620’x60’x25’6” Mississagi, a Canadian-flagged, 17,500-ton capacity bulker owned by Lower Lakes Towing Ltd., was successfully refloated on Saturday after lightering operations offloaded approximately 2,000 tons of stone. Once it reached the bulker on Saturday, Great Lakes Towing’s 88'/2,250-hp tug Missouri freed the vessel within five hours.
Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, the ship’s master contacted a Coast Guard watchstander at Sault Ste. Marie to report the vessel was hard aground in Potagannissing Bay, near Big Trout Island about 4 miles northeast of De Tour Village, its bow stuck on the bottom with 17,000 tons of stone on board.
With Coast Guard approval of its offloading plan, Lower Lakes Towing began lightering 2,000 tons of stone from the forward part of the ship Saturday morning, using a conveyor to move the material onto a 600' ATB. The Coast Guard cutter Buckthorn, a 100' buoy tender, maintained a 500-yard safety zone around the ship during the operation while the Missouri refloated ship.
The Mississagi was grounded outside the main channel so transit for other vessels on the river was unimpeded, Coast Guard officials said. On Wednesday morning, Coast Guard personnel from stations at Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace responded, along with an air crew on a Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Traverse City, Mich., who confirmed there was no pollution from the incident.
An onboard inspection Wednesday found no significant damage to ballast tank or leaks from the grounding, and no damage to fuel tanks near the stern of the vessel. The Buckthorn’s crew made an aids-to-navigation verification survey Wednesday, and confirmed all markers were in proper position on the river when the grounding occurred.
No injuries were reported among the ship’s crew, and an investigation is continuing, according to the Coast Guard.