Bulker leaves channel, grounds near entrance to North Carolina port

A foreign-flagged bulk carrier loaded with agricultural products ran aground near Morehead City, N.C., and it required help from multiple tugboats to refloat. 

The 590-foot Kite Bay became stuck May 25 at about 0700 on the sandy bottom in Beaufort Inlet. The vessel grounded completely outside the navigation channel near the entrance to the port, Coast Guard spokeswoman Katherine Blue said.

The service is investigating the incident, which did not result in pollution, injuries or damage to the ship. The Coast Guard has not determined the cause, and its ongoing probe limited the information it could discuss publicly. 

“All I can say is that it was coming in from the anchorage and it grounded,” said Lt. John Packard, a Coast Guard investigator. 

Kite Bay, registered in the Isle of Man, is owned by the Greek shipper Pioneer Marine, which did not respond to an inquiry about the grounding. The 5-year-old ship was built by Guoyu Shipyard in Yangzhou, China.

Kite Bay was inbound to Morehead City from nearby Wilmington, N.C., following an overseas voyage from Istanbul, Turkey. The ship was entering the harbor from an offshore anchorage under the control of a pilot from the Morehead City Pilots Association.

The bulker left the channel to the east side and grounded near Shackleford Banks. The pilots group declined to comment on the incident. 

Two Moran Towing tugboats based in Morehead City responded soon after the grounding. The 1,600-hp Fort Macon and the 2,800-hp Peter G. Turecamo remained on the scene for much of the day. The tugs helped free the ship at about 1730 with the rising tide.

The two tugboats “assisted to prevent Kite Bay from moving farther into the shoal while the vessel de-ballasted,” Blue said.  

“The tugs held (it) in place for a considerable amount of time. It was a combination of the tug assist and the high tide that allowed the ship to float free.”

After refloating, Kite Bay transferred to a nearby anchorage for a Coast Guard damage assessment. The vessel was ultimately cleared after authorities determined there was no damage, Packard said. 

Coast Guard officials recently surveyed the area of the grounding to verify the presence and location of aids to navigation (ATON). Packard said that is a standard practice for casualties of this kind.

AIS data shows Kite Bay arrived in Morehead City on May 27. The ship departed the next day for Darrow, La., on the Mississippi River.

By Professional Mariner Staff