Great Lakes bulker suffers second fire in less than a year

(ASHTABULA, Ohio) — A fire broke out Friday aboard the 81-year-old bulk carrier Cuyahoga, one of the oldest cargo vessels transiting the Great Lakes, while the ship was docked along Lake Erie. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that the captain and crew of the vessel were not injured.

According to the Coast Guard, the 664-foot Cuyahoga was undergoing maintenance in preparation for the upcoming shipping season when the fire started. A preliminary investigation found the cause to be welding, which ignited paint in a cargo hold at about 2 p.m. The extent of damage was being assessed.

Dense smoke rises from Cuyahoga on Friday in Ashtabula, Ohio. U.S. Coast Guard photo

The ship is operated by Lower Lakes Towing, a subsidiary of Rand Logistics, and is used for transporting stone, iron ore, coal and other bulk commodities on the Great Lakes. Built as J. Burton Ayers in 1943, the self-discharging ship was acquired by Lower Lakes Towing in 1995 and renamed Cuyahoga.

This was the second fire in less than a year aboard Cuyahoga. On May 23, a fire broke out on the Canadian-registered vessel while it was transiting Lake Erie near Pelee Island. According to the Coast Guard, the fire originated in the engine room and was quickly contained. No injuries were reported.

Cuyahoga downbound on the Welland Canal in 2011. Roy Keith/ photo
By Professional Mariner Staff