Ship runs aground; Seaway expected to remain closed until tomorrow morning

The ship sits aground off Lakeshore Drive. Authorities have closed the Seaway until tugboats pull the vessel back into the main channel. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

MORRISBURG — Navigation is not expected to resume on the St. Lawrence Seaway until early tomorrow morning, according to authorities, following the latest of two coincidental failures occurring within South Dundas that have delayed shipping on the channel for a couple of days.

Maritime traffic remains at a standstill after the Damia Desgagnes ran aground following a mechanical problem that awoke some nearby residents with the sound of an explosion and loud scraping noises late last night.

Coincidentally, the Seaway had been closed most of the previous day (June 15) when a different ship came into contact with an “arrestor” device at the Iroquois Lock. But that damage was fixed and the lock re-opened at 11:09 p.m., only to have authorities halt Seaway traffic less than an hour later when new troubles unfolded about 6 km to the east, off Lakeshore Drive.

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation Communications Officer Andrew Bogora told Nation Valley News that two tugboats are not expected to reach the stranded vessel until shortly before midnight tonight, just about 24 hours after the ship experienced a “mechanical failure” that sent it off course. Only when the tugboats haul the Damia Desgagnes “off the side” and back into the main channel — a process he suggested would take up to two hours — will the Seaway re-open to shipping.

In the meantime, Bogora said only “minimal activity” is occurring on the waterway “from Kingston to Montreal at this point in time” as a result of the disabled ship now sitting close to the South Dundas shoreline.

It’s parked near the home of Sandra and Fred Goulet, who said they were startled from their sleep around midnight last night.

“We thought a car crashed here or something. It made one heck of a noise, and then, there was all kinds of clanging … and then you could hear it hit the rocks and everything coming in,” said Fred Goulet. “It did that for quite a while, so I don’t know how far out it was when we heard that.”

Sandra Goulet said they could also hear yelling coming from the ship — along with grinding noises — after the explosion woke them up. “We went to the window to look, and we could see the ship all lit up, just where you see it right now. It was just kind of crazy.”

“We said, ‘What’s that? ‘It sounds like a bomb went off,’” she said.

A neighbour from across the street, Lesley Johansen, said it sounded as if a military aircraft went roaring above the river (see video below).

In more typical circumstances, other boats would have been allowed to pass by the grounded vessel. But high water flows on the St. Lawrence River (also known as Lake St. Lawrence between Iroquois and Cornwall) have authorities taking extra precautions this time, acknowledged Bogora.

As the International Joint Commission brings down water levels in Lake Ontario from historic highs by cranking open the Cornwall Dam, flows have hit 10,400 cubic meters per second in the last couple of days, the “maximum rate which navigation [on the Seaway] can be sustained,” he said.

However, the recent back-to-back incidents in South Dundas are “an unfortunate coincidence, and not in any way related to the high water,” Bogora added, noting the flow rate was just about as fast — at 10,200 cubic metres per second — over the previous three weeks.

And it’s not far off the previous recent flow record of 9,900 cubic meters per second that went through the dam at times in both 1993 and 1998, he said.

Out of 3,000 ship transits on the Seaway each year, “we very rarely have a handful of incidents,” he pointed out.

According to marinetraffic.com , the Damia Desgagnes is a Canadian registered asphalt/bitumen tanker based out of Quebec.

 


Live report number one from the scene.

 


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