Boulder stuck in bulk carrier’s hull after Columbia River grounding


The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating why a grain carrier ran aground in the Columbia River and ended up with a boulder lodged in its hull.

The 623-foot Sparna grounded near Cathlamet, Wash., on March 21. 

“We are still gathering evidence and conducting interviews and should be finished by the end of June,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Robinson, chief investigations officer of the Marine Safety Unit at Portland. 

He said the investigation has involved the National Transportation Safety Board and the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots.

The Panama-flagged, 54,881-dwt vessel, operated by K Line and owned by Santoku Senpaku of Japan, was taking a full load of grain to Otaru, Japan, and had 218,380 gallons of high-sulfur fuel and 39,380 gallons of marine diesel on board. 

During the grounding, a boulder became lodged in the hull. The ship was towed to the Port of Kalama, where an inspection was carried out by Ballard Marine Construction and repairs were conducted by DonJon Marine. The vessel was later allowed to leave, with the boulder still inside, after a Coast Guard inspection. 

A tugboat assists the damaged ship, which had a boulder wedged in its hull.

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

“We examined the hull and the repairs particularly thoroughly, calling on some of our most experienced experts, because the boulder was left inside. It was encased in steel and cement and we declared the vessel safe to proceed back to Japan,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Russell, chief of the inspections department.

“There was damage from the forepeak to No. 1 ballast tank, but no oil, fuel or ballast water leaked as a result of the grounding,” he said. “The weight of the boulder was about the same as the water in the ballast tank.”

Russell said there appeared to have been a dispute over who owned the grain, and the parties involved decided to get the ship back to Japan as soon as possible and not wait for full repairs to be carried out in the U.S.

K Line and DonJon Marine did not return phone calls seeking comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff