Cruise ship crashes into wall inside Seaway lock, injuring 30 people

A small cruise ship traveling in the St. Lawrence Seaway struck a concrete wall in the Eisenhower Lock near Massena, N.Y. The impact damaged the vessel’s bow and injured 30 passengers and crew.

The 286-foot Saint Laurent was traveling from Montreal to Toronto when it ran into the lock’s upstream bumper at about 2100 on June 18.

Saint Laurent was the only vessel inside the lock when the incident occurred. The impact with the concrete wall pushed the bow inward by about 10 feet and caused water intrusion into parts of the ship. The intrusion stopped when the water level in the lock was reduced.

“The vessel allided with the lock sill plate, which was designed to keep a vessel from damaging the lock doors,” PA3 Christopher Yaw, a spokesman with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ninth District, said in an email. A river pilot was on board at the time but was not at the controls.

The Bahamas-flagged Saint Laurent is managed by FleetPro, which described the accident in a statement as “an unfortunate incident.” There were no reports of equipment malfunction aboard the ship.

“The company will carry out a full investigation into the events leading up to the allision and cooperate fully with any official investigation,” FleetPro said in the statement.

Weather conditions were clear with a light northwest wind and are not believed to be a factor in the accident, Yaw said. The accident occurred at around dusk.

The ship was carrying 274 passengers, crew and the pilot. Thirty people were taken off the ship for treatment at a local hospital. A day later, 28 had returned to the ship, the Coast Guard said. Uninjured passengers remained on the vessel until June 19, when they were removed using baskets attached to cranes. The passengers, mostly Swiss and French tourists, rode buses to Montreal.

After the vessel was deemed safe to move, the tugboat Pierre Julien helped free the cruise ship from the lock and into a lower wall in the Seaway, the Coast Guard said. Divers later conducted a hull survey and determined the ship could sail under its own power. Saint Laurent sailed to Quebec City on June 21.

The St. Lawrence Seaway was closed for nearly 42 hours, delaying passage of at least 15 vessels. It reopened at about 1600 on June 20.

The river pilot on board was from the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority in Cornwall, Ontario. The authority’s chief executive, Robert Lemire, said an internal investigation of the incident found no errors with pilotage procedures on the bridge.

“We’re satisfied that what we needed to do, we did right,” Lemire said.

A spokeswoman for the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. declined to comment on the pilot’s role in the incident. The Coast Guard spokesman did not respond to questions about the pilot.

Saint Laurent is owned by Clipper Cruises Ltd., and formerly sailed as Clipper Voyager, Cape May Light and Coastal Queen I. It was built in 2001.

The Coast Guard was still investigating the cause of the accident in August.

By Professional Mariner Staff