Maritime Casualty News, April 2015

Vessel grounds in St. Lawrence River

A 621-foot bulk carrier ran hard aground in the St. Lawrence River and began taking on water near Wellesley Island, just east of Lake Ontario.  

The Bahamian-flagged Juno was inbound toward Toronto with a load of sugar when it grounded at about 0100 on April 20, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a press release. The vessel became stuck near the Thousand Islands Bridge but did not hit the span, the agency said.

There were no injuries and no pollution reported, although one of the vessel's forward ballast tanks was reportedly taking on water. The agency closed the channel while the vessel was stuck, affecting at least three ships.

The Coast Guard dispatched a crew from Marine Safety Detachment Massena, N.Y., which met with representatives from the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. The accident is under investigation.

Deck hand falls overboard in Mississippi River

A deck hand aboard the towing vessel Joe Ellis apparently fell overboard on the Mississippi River near Osceola, Ark. Vessel crew reported the missing crewman at about 0353 on April 7 near the Mid River Terminal at mile marker 782.

The Coast Guard sent two marine investigators and a 25-foot response boat to participate in the search. Local authorities from Mississippi County and Blytheville, Ark., assisted with the search, which was called off on April 8.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends,” Capt. Timothy Wendt, commanding officer, Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River, said in a statement. "It’s always difficult to end an active search for individuals in the water, but the Coast Guard is suspending its search pending further developments."

The missing crewman was not identified and additional details surrounding the incident were not released.

Loaded oil tanker grounds near Galveston

A 750-foot oil tanker carrying 17 million gallons of oil ran aground in the Gulf of Mexico east of Galveston, Texas.

The Italian-flagged SN Federica was outbound transiting the Galveston Fairway anchorage roughly 35 miles from the mainland, the Coast Guard said in a news release.

The vessel's forepeak was damaged in the incident, and water from a ballast tank leaked into the ship. However, none of the oil escaped into the Gulf. There were no injuries.

"The SN Federica initiated their vessel response plan and began the process of dewatering their ballast tanks. The vessel completed ballast operations and was finally refloated at 10:32 p.m.," the Coast Guard said.

Marine Safety Unit Texas City is investigating the cause of the grounding.

Casualty flashback: April 1873

The four-masted steamship RMS Atlantic was sailing from Liverpool, England, to New York City when the captain opted for an unscheduled stop in Halifax for coal to feed the boiler. While approaching Halifax Harbour at about 0315 on April 1, 1873, the vessel struck a rocky shoal and quickly capsized.  

The vessel was carrying 952 people and at least 535 people died, many while trying to escape. The accident was the worst of its kind in the North Atlantic for 26 years until the sinking of SS La Bourgogne in 1898.

According to published reports, Atlantic was sailing at 12 knots through a storm and poor visibility leading up to the grounding. Crew apparently failed to notice a lighthouse or take other precautions as they neared shore. They did not wake the captain during the tricky approach into Halifax Harbour. At the time of the accident, the vessel was roughly 12 miles farther west than the crew thought. 

The vessel quickly capsized as water rushed into its damaged hull. Lifeboats were washed away by the rough seas or broken against nearby rocks. Survivors swam or climbed ropes to reach nearby rocks. About 371 people survived.

By Professional Mariner Staff