The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a collision that punctured the hulls of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a bulk carrier during an ice escort on Lake Michigan.
Hollyhock, a 225-foot buoy tender based in Port Huron, Mich., was breaking ice in front of the 990-foot Mesabi Miner at about 1045 on Jan. 5 when the collision occurred. The freighter was en route from Two Harbors, Minn., to Gary, Ind., with a load of iron ore.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Levy Read, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Ninth District in Cleveland, said Hollyhock had decreased its speed after reaching a section of thicker ice about 22 nm west of the Mackinac Bridge. Mesabi Miner was unable to slow down in time and its bow struck the stern of the cutter.
Hollyhock’s crew reported “significant” damage to the stern and fantail, including two punctures in the hull about 20 feet above the waterline. Mesabi Miner sustained two holes and two fractures in its starboard bow about four feet above the waterline, said Tom Wynne, general counsel for the ship’s owner, Interlake Steamship Co. of Middleburg Heights, Ohio.
“One hole was approximately 8 inches in diameter and one was approximately 10 inches in diameter,” Wynne said. “(One fracture) was 4 feet long and one was approximately 8 inches long, and then there was some bow plate that was set in as well in the same area.”
The Coast Guard reported visibility of 10 nm in freezing rain, with 11-knot winds. Read said he did not know how far astern Mesabi Miner was when Hollyhock hit the section of thicker ice, or the extent of communication between the two ships.
“From what I understand, the Coast Guard cutter did reach out to the Mesabi Miner, but there wasn’t time to react to get the freighter to stop,” he said. Wynne said he couldn’t comment on communication between the ships because of the ongoing NTSB investigation.
Hollyhock proceeded to St. Ignace, Mich., arriving at 2030. It was escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug, as a precaution. Temporary repairs were made and Hollyhock resumed icebreaking operations on Jan. 11.
“They patched the holes in the hull and welded the aft rail,” Read said. “Permanent repairs will be scheduled at a later date.”
No injuries or pollution were reported. Wynne said the Coast Guard granted permission for Mesabi Miner to continue to its destination for temporary repairs, which were completed Jan. 8. It resumed operation and was taken out of service for the season at the end of January.