Bulker grounds 1,000 feet outside channel in St. Lawrence River


A bulk carrier that ran aground in the St. Lawrence River near Cape Vincent, N.Y., might have lost propulsion just before the incident, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The 623-foot Pacific Huron was downbound when it sailed roughly 1,000 feet outside the channel and grounded at about 2100 on Dec. 27. The incident occurred west of Wellesley Island in New York’s Thousand Islands region on the U.S. side of the border.

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kyle Maxey said Pacific Huron’s crew reported “that a loss of propulsion caused them to run aground.”

“From what it sounds like, they understood there was some kind of malfunction and they were looking for a safe place (outside the channel) … where they could assess the issue” when the ship hit bottom, said Maxey, of Sector Buffalo.
The case remains under investigation and the final cause has not been determined.

Pacific Huron was on its final voyage of the season when it ran aground. The ship departed Detroit on Dec. 12, carrying 19,680 metric tons of soybeans bound for Italy along with a large quantity of fuel.

The ship grounded on the north side of the channel, with its bow section to No. 3 cargo hold touching bottom. A hull survey showed the ship sustained scrapes and other minor damage but no breaches. None of the crew were injured.

A Great Lakes Pilotage Authority (GLPA) pilot was guiding the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged ship when the incident occurred roughly 20 miles northeast of Cape Vincent on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario. Robert Lemire, GLPA chief executive officer, said the pilots group is cooperating with the investigation.

“We have yet to receive a formal report from the pilots on board the vessel given the fact that these two pilots (were) still on another ship stuck in ice at Snell Lock, N.Y.,” Lemire said in a Jan. 2 e-mail.

These formal reports, he added, “are confidential and cannot be shared.”

Donjon-SMIT oversaw the refloating with help from the 2,150-hp tug Evans McKeil and 3,300-hp Ocean A. Simard. Pacific Huron floated free at about 2000 on Dec. 30. A St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association pilot was aboard during the refloating and subsequent transit to anchorage at Mason Point, N.Y.

Seaway Pilots President Capt. John Boyce declined to comment, citing his agency’s involvement after the initial grounding. Donjon-SMIT and owners of both tugboats, McKeil Marine and Ocean Group, did not respond to requests for comment.

Inspectors from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. and Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. boarded the vessel at Mason Point. Divers also performed a hull survey there. In early 2018, Pacific Huron received clearance to sail to Montreal.

Freese Shipping of Stade, Germany, owns the ship, which was delivered in 2010 by Yangzhou Guoyu Shipbuilding Co. of China. Freese officials did not respond to a request for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff