Maine pier collapse injures 1, sinks pilot boat, damages others


A pilot boat sank and two other vessels were seriously damaged when a pier collapsed in Eastport, Maine. 

Video cameras captured roughly half of the 400-foot pier crashing into the harbor at 0230 on Dec. 4, 2014. The caretaker of an excursion vessel tied up along the pier was treated for a leg injury. 

The 400-foot-long-by-100-foot-wide L-shaped pier was made from interlocking steel pilings, filled with rock and debris and topped with an asphalt deck. It was built in the 1960s and expanded in the 1980s. 

Local officials point to a cascading failure of the steel pilings on the older pier section. The breakdown occurred during low tide on the long piece of the L-shaped pier facing the shore. 

“There was a limited autopsy that was done by an engineering firm and it points to an unforeseeable internal structural failure,” said Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority. 

“It just let go all at once. It was unforeseen,” he added.  

Tons of rock, dirt and debris contained inside the pier poured into the harbor after the pilings let go. Some of that material landed on the 48-foot pilot boat Medric II.

“It just so happened that the pilot boat Medric was on the inside, closest to structure,” said Capt. Bob Peacock of Eastport, the ship pilot. “When the structure started letting go, some of that landed on top of the pilot boat.”

“The weight of the structure on the (Medric’s) decks just kept it submerged,” he said. The vessel is considered a total loss.  

Below, the pilot boat Medric is partially  sunk and badly damaged.

Courtesy Capt. Bob Peacock

The 118-foot excursion vessel Ada C. Lore also was seriously damaged, while the frame on the scallop dragger Double Trouble was “bent like a pretzel,” Peacock said. About a dozen other vessels had cleats ripped off and other minor damage. 

The Coast Guard is investigating some aspects of the incident, according to a spokeswoman.

“The Coast Guard typically does not investigate shore structures. However, we are investigating the damage to the three vessels and we are monitoring the status of the pier and the waterway impacted by the debris,” said PA3 MyeongHi Clegg from Sector Boston. 

The city of Eastport, along the Canadian border, owns the pier. The port authority operates it. Until the collapse, it served dozens of local vessels, including a fishing fleet and two Coast Guard response boats. Cruise ships docked there in the summer. Most cargo vessels use a newer pier on the other side of the island. 

Although the failure was unexpected, local, state and federal officials have known for years that the older pier section needed to be replaced. The port authority sought bids for a roughly $13 million replacement job just days before the collapse.
That effort has been complicated somewhat by the collapse, which altered the scope of the work. However, Gardner hopes the project will be finished within 24 months. 

“We knew wholesale replacement was what was necessary,” Gardner said. “The irony was, we just didn’t make it.”

By Professional Mariner Staff