Maritime Casualty News, November 2017

Crew extinguishes fire on Columbia River cruise ship

Crewmembers aboard the cruise ship American Empress extinguished a fire that began in the engine room as the vessel prepared to dock in the Columbia River. The incident occurred during the evening on Nov. 9 near The Dalles, Ore.

The diesel-powered sternwheeler operated by American Queen Steamboat Co. had 173 passengers and 77 crew on board and was about to tie up for the night. The fire reportedly damaged two of the four propulsion generators on the 380-foot ship, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Levi Read, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s office in Portland, Ore., said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He said the problem stemmed from a “generator issue.”

There were no injuries, and American Empress never lost propulsion or electrical power, the Coast Guard said. Crew extinguished the flames using “shipboard firefighting appliances.”

Read said the ship operator planned to replace the damaged engine room equipment after Thanksgiving when the vessel finished sailing for the season.

Tanker loses propulsion, grounds in Cape Fear River

An oil tanker ran aground in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, N.C., and authorities blamed the incident on a propulsion issue.

Crew aboard the Marshall Islands-flagged Swan Biscay reported the grounding at about 1250 on Nov. 4, the Coast Guard said. The tanker remained stuck near Buoy 19 until about 1600 that afternoon.

"There appears to have been a loss of propulsion," Coast Guard spokesman Joshua Canup, who is based in Virginia, said in an email.

No one was injured and there was no pollution. The 426-foot ship was not damaged. Additional information about the incident was not available. Norstar Shipping is listed as the 9-year-old ship's manager. It did not respond to inquiries about the incident.

A backyard security camera recorded the incident as it unfolded, and the local newspaper The State Port Pilot posted the video on its Facebook page. To see the incident, click here, then click on the first frame under "All Videos."

Barge breaks free during storm, grounds off New Jersey

A barge owned by Great Lakes Dredge & Dock broke free from its mooring during strong winds, drifted across Newark Bay and grounded in Bayonne, N.J.

The barge GL 65 came loose at Port Newark during the overnight hours on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30 as a powerful storm rolled through the Northeast. The 276-by-63-foot barge drifted across the bay, struck a pier at 16th Street Park and then ran aground, according to news outlet Minor damage to the pier was reported; there was no report of damage to the barge. 

The first attempt to refloat the vessel was not successful. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock refloated the barge on the morning of Nov. 2 with help from a tugboat and an unusually high tide.  

Casualty flashback: November 1919

Just two hours after leaving Munising, Mich., for Buffalo, N.Y., SS Myron found itself battered by a strong late November snowstorm. Winds soon reached 60 mph, and the vessel began taking on water.

The 186-foot wooden steamship piled high with lumber sank later that day in Lake Superior less than two miles from Whitefish Bay’s protected waters. Seventeen of 18 sailors on board died in the lake's frigid waters. Some were found in the spring encased in ice. All wore life jackets.

Myron left Munising with the vessel Miztec in tow before dawn on Nov. 22, 1919. Capt. Walter Neal released Miztec in sheltered waters near Vermilion Point, Mich., and raced toward Whitefish Bay, about 10 miles away. Hull damage allowed water to enter the ship, and ice buildup affected its stability.

Flooding extinguished Myron's boilers before it reached Whitefish Bay, and the vessel sank quickly after going abreast to the wind and waves. Crew escaped in two lifeboats but could not maneuver with so much lumber and wreckage floating nearby. At least two ships made efforts to rescue the crew but were unsuccessful.

Neal was rescued nearly 20 hours after the sinking by the passing freighter W.C. Franz. Neal later said the rescue vessels Adriatic and H.P. McIntosh abandoned him and his crew. Miztec and its seven sailors survived the storm.

By Professional Mariner Staff