Lightering operations to begin on vessel aground in St. Marys River

The motor vessel Mississagi sits aground in the lower St. Marys River near De Tour Village, Mich., April 22, 2015. The Mississagi is a 603-foot bulk carrier. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan)

The motor vessel Mississagi sits aground in the lower St. Marys River near De Tour Village, Mich., April 22, 2015.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City)

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Lightering operations of the 603-foot bulk carrier Mississagi, which ran aground in the St. Marys River near De Tour Village, Michigan early Wednesday, will commence Saturday following the Coast Guard’s approval of the owner’s salvage plan, Friday.

The motor vessel, a Canadian-flagged bulk carrier with a load of more than 17,000 tons of stone, was transiting downbound the St. Marys River from Bruce Mines, Ontario, when it ran aground in the Potagannissing Bay, approximately 4 miles northeast of De Tour Village. The bow of the vessel is aground.

Operations were scheduled to begin about 8 a.m. Approximately 2,000 tons of stone will be offloaded by conveyor belt onto a 600-foot tug and barge in order to refloat the Mississagi. Operations are expected to be complete sometime in the afternoon. The vessel will then transit about one mile before anchoring so that more thorough internal and external inspections can take place.

The owner of the vessel, Lower Lakes Towing, has been directed to implement and execute measures to mitigate potential pollution during the operations.

The Coast Guard will have two marine inspectors and a pollution responder aboard the Mississagi during the offload. The Coast Guard Cutter Buckthorn, a 100-foot buoy tender, will be on scene to enforce a 500-yard safety zone. In addition, a Coast Guard helicopter crew from Air Station Traverse City will conduct an overflight during the offload.

The vessel is located out of the shipping channel, and navigation in the St. Marys River is currently unimpeded.

At about 1:00 a.m. Wednesday, the master of the Mississagi notified a watchstander at Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, that the carrier was hard aground.

Personnel from Coast Guard Stations Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace, Michigan responded. A helicopter crew from Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, aboard a Dolphin helicopter, provided an overflight of the vessel to confirm there was no pollution.

Coast Guard marine inspectors completed a post-damage survey Wednesday afternoon and determined that ballast tanks had no significant damage or ingress of water. In addition, fuel tanks located near the stern of the vessel did not sustain any damage.

The crew of the Buckthorn conducted an aids to navigation verification survey Wednesday and determined that all aids were in position in the water when the grounding occurred.

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

There were no reported injuries to the crew and there is no reports of pollution.

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