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Bulk carrier Orsula aground off Tibbetts Point. Photo: USCGS
Bulk carrier Orsula aground off Tibbetts Point. Photo: USCGS

Why did the freighter Orsula run aground?

Update, Tuesday 10:50: As of 8 this morning, shipwatcher.com reported the Orsula and other ships still moving through the Seaway, and that the season would be extended.

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The bulk freighter Orsula had been expected to clear the St. Lawrence Seaway before the Seaway closed. The freighter carrying 20,000 tons of wheat from Duluth, Minn., to Europe, is headed out to sea after running aground on Christmas Day off Tibbets Point near Cape Vincent. The vessel was freed Sunday night around six o'clock.

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Reported by

Nora Flaherty
Digital Editor, News

According to a press release from the Coast Guard, divers inspected the vessel to make sure it's safe for it to continue its journey, and it's cleared to continue on to the end of the Seaway at Montreal. The Coast Guard was able to lighten the ship, by removing much of its cargo to a barge, and "refloat" it. It's reporting no injuries or pollution.

So why did the ship run aground in the first place? That's still being investigated, but according to Michael Folsom, who blogs at theshipwatcher.com, haste may have been part of the problem: The Montreal section of the Seaway is scheduled to close tonight (pdf), and Folsom says buoys that are normally in place to warn ships of big rocks had already been removed for the season:

"Where she happened to run aground is where a marker tends to sit during the summer season. So there's some thought that because of the early removal of the buoys that the ship was unaware of the damage that could be done by the rocks that were so nearby…an unmarked channel is far more dangerous than a marked channel."

The Seaway generally opens for the year in late March. Folsom says ships that don't make it out by the end of the season may be required to overwinter, but that's not likely to happen this year: "It seems that things are in order at this point, there's only a few ships left at anchorages and they'll be locked through later today...everything should be clear by the 11:59 deadline." 

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