Mechanical Failure Causes Bulk Freighter to Run Aground

Last week, a 656-foot long freight became stuck to the muddy bottom of a waterway near the U.S.-Canadian border. A mechanical failure caused steering loss, resulting in the freighter running around.

At 3 a.m. on July 27, the watchstanders at Coast Guard Station Detroit received a report that the Federal Rideau, a bulk freighter carrying 22,672 tons of wheat, ran hard aground in Lake St. Clair’s downbound channel.

According to the Coast Guard, the Hong Kong-flagged motor vessel was on its way to Montreal, Quebec, Canada when a motor coupling aboard the vessel failed. The mechanical failure in turn caused the ship to lose its steering and run into a shallow area of Lake St. Clair.

The Federal Rideau’s crew quickly repaired the motor coupling, but the ship was unable to free itself from the muddy bottom of the downbound channel. Per the Coast Guard, 580 feet of the Federal Rideau were in the shipping channel, but the route remained open and navigable during the protracted effort to free the ship and float it to Belle Island anchorage.

The Detroit Coast Guard station dispatched a team of inspectors from the services Prevention Department to inspect the Federal Rideau and evaluate the situation and the extent of damage to the ship. The inspection found no sign of structural damage or potential environmental pollution.

Salvage operations began on Sunday, but the initial attempts to free the Federal Rideau were unsuccessful. One effort to move the freighter was aborted after one of the two tugs developed engine trouble. The ship remained aground until Tuesday, July 29, when five tugs pulled it free from the channel bottom and towed it along the Detroit River to the Belle Isle.

According to Canadian media reports, the ship will be inspected at the Belle Isle anchorage before continuing its scheduled run to Montreal. After that, the Coast Guard’s role will be limited to monitoring the Federal Rideau’s progress.

“We monitor but that’s all, just like on the Great Lakes we want you to be safe, but the owner and the surveyors will take it from here,” said Coast Guard Detroit Sector spokesman Petty Officer Jim Connor.

“It could have been much worse; we are very happy that it didn’t shut down the shipping channel,” Connor said. “Things were able to keep moving.”

Connor added that this type of grounding incident is rare in the Detroit River/Lake St. Clair, but at least there were no injuries aboard the Federal Rideau.

According to the Coast Guard, the grounding also did not result in any leakage or any pollution hazards.

The Canadian Coast Guard was also involved in the incident. On Sunday, soon after it received word that the freighter was aground, its Vessel Traffic Services issued a waterway obstruction advisory to mariners. The advisory, which expired when the Federal Rideau was freed, warned that part of the Lake St. Clair channel was blocked but that salvage operations were underway.

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