S.C. bridge closes after boxship’s propulsion malfunction

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The U.S. Coast Guard and numerous state and local agencies responded to an incident Wednesday involving a containership on the Cooper River in Charleston.

Coast Guard Sector Charleston watch standers received a report at 12:17 p.m. from the Charleston Harbor Pilots about a containership, MSC Michigan VII, experiencing a malfunction with the systems controlling its propulsion on the Cooper River while outbound from the North Charleston Container Terminal.

Coast Guard Sector Charleston Deputy Cmdr. Randy Preston said the 997-foot, 74,000-ton boxship was en route to Savannah, Ga., when the incident occurred.

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, S.C. File photo by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress Collection
The containership MSC Michigan VII, formerly Sealand Michigan, in 2019. VesselFinder.com photo

“The pilot on board indicated the vessel lost ability to control the engines and they were stuck nearly full-ahead with the vessel making between 14 to 17 knots,” Preston said.

As a precaution, local law enforcement closed vehicle traffic to the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and Fort Moultrie Beach was evacuated. The bridge reopened once the vessel safely passed underneath.

Coast Guard response boats and other government agency partners launched numerous assets on the water and the shore to assist with alerting the public and clearing vessel traffic in the ship channel.

The vessel transited out of Charleston Harbor and is currently anchored 8.5 miles offshore. The vessel has been issued a captain of the port order to remain anchored until further notice.

“I would like to thank our South Carolina state and local Charleston partners for their prompt response and assistance in clearing vessel traffic in the ship channel and halting vehicle traffic on the Ravenel Bridge,” Preston said. “I also want to recognize the Charleston Harbor Pilots for their exceptional coordination and the pilot’s efforts in recognizing the adverse situation and steering the ship through the harbor to open water without major incident. This was truly a team effort.”

Sector Charleston watch standers received reports of damage along the vessel’s route believed to be caused by its wake. Vessel and facility inspectors are currently conducting damage assessments throughout the port.

Two recreational boaters were reportedly injured and were assisted by local emergency medical personnel before being transported to a nearby hospital.

Federal aids to navigation in the area are being assessed to ensure there are no discrepancies as a result of this incident. The incident is under investigation.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff