Grounding of bulk carrier near anchorage damages reef off Fort Lauderdale

The 48,000-gross-ton Spar Orion grounded just off the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at about 0800 on May 17. The 653-foot Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier was en route from Sweden to Port Everglades, Fla., with a cargo of 44 metric tons of cement when it ran aground not far from a designated anchorage area.

There was no pilot aboard at the time of the grounding and one was not required, according to U.S. Coast Guard public affairs officer Dana Warr. Pilots normally board vessels at the sea buoy just to the south of the anchorage before entering Port Everglades. The ship grounded on a coral reef about a half to three-quarters of a mile off the beach and just inshore of the anchorage area.

Lou Fisher, a natural resource specialist with the Broward County Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Biological Resources Division, said the grounding caused serious damage to the reef. Fisher said he believes that Spar Orion was planning to anchor in Anchorage Area A, which has depths ranging from 65 to 75 feet and runs north to south, parallel with the reef that lies just inshore of the anchorage. Spar Orion draws 37 feet and should have had plenty of water in the anchorage.

However, according to Petty Officer Ryan Doss with the Coast Guard’s Seventh District in Miami, the Coast Guard is investigating the possibility that Spar Orion may have drifted out of the anchorage and onto the reef. It is unclear whether or not the ship was trying to anchor at the time of the grounding or if it was having any mechanical problems.

The anchorage area is marked on the chart, but there are no buoys or day markers to delineate its boundaries.

According to the National Weather Service, the weather was clear and winds were light and northerly at the time of the accident.

The ship was refloated by the high tide at 0130 on May 18 and proceeded under its own power to the anchorage area with no reports of damage. The ship then proceeded to Port Everglades for inspection and unloading. U.S. Coast Guard divers examined the hull for damage and found none. There were no injuries reported.

The area has been the site of other groundings. Fisher said at least 10 have been reported in the vicinity since 1994. The Coast Guard said the cause of the grounding is still under investigation.

By Professional Mariner Staff