2014-09-06 / Top News

Freighter Hits Bottom in Round Island Passage

American Spirit lies in Round Island Passage the evening of September 4, as seen from the East Bluff on Mackinac Island. Strong thunderstorms passing through the Straits of Mackinac pushed the freighter off course. Lightning lingers in the southern sky. (Photo by Susan Myron)American Spirit lies in Round Island Passage the evening of September 4, as seen from the East Bluff on Mackinac Island. Strong thunderstorms passing through the Straits of Mackinac pushed the freighter off course. Lightning lingers in the southern sky. (Photo by Susan Myron)

By Erich Doerr

The 1,004-foot American Steamship Company self-unloading bulk carrier American Spirit ran aground in the Round Island Passage at approximately 6:20 p.m. Thursday, September 4, while carrying 64,800 tons of taconite pellets. No injuries or pollution were reported from the grounding and the freighter was refloated about 8:30 Friday morning, September 5, after offloading some of its cargo to another vessel.

The freighter American Spirit went aground in Round Island passage Thursday, September 4, about 6:20 p.m., heading west on her way from Two Harbors, Minnesota, to Indiana Harbor. The 1,000-foot, self-unloading bulk carrier was loaded with 64,800 tons of taconite and hit bottom just before reaching the Round Island Lighthouse.The freighter American Spirit went aground in Round Island passage Thursday, September 4, about 6:20 p.m., heading west on her way from Two Harbors, Minnesota, to Indiana Harbor. The 1,000-foot, self-unloading bulk carrier was loaded with 64,800 tons of taconite and hit bottom just before reaching the Round Island Lighthouse.

The ship ran aground because strong winds pushed it off course while it was traversing the passage between Round Island and Mackinac Island, the crew of the American Spirit reported to Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie. At the time, the freighter was travelling westbound to Indiana Harbor after loading up at Two Harbors, Minnesota. The American Spirit hit bottom on the southern edge of the channel, but because it was running parallel to the channel at the time, the ship did not impede any other vessel traffic. While the freighter was stuck, it listed five degrees to its starboard side. No leaks were reported.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority reported winds of between 46 to 60 miles per hour between 4:40 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. when the incident occurred.The 635-foot Sam Laud alongside the grounded 1,000-foot American Spirit Friday morning at 7:10 off Mackinac Island’s west breakwall. American Spirit is unloading some of its taconite cargo into the other vessel so she can clear the bottom and move out of the channel. Shepler’s Sacre Bleu freight boat (left) makes a morning run to Mackinac Island as another round of thunderstorms approaches the Straits. Round Island Passage Light is at right. The 635-foot Sam Laud alongside the grounded 1,000-foot American Spirit Friday morning at 7:10 off Mackinac Island’s west breakwall. American Spirit is unloading some of its taconite cargo into the other vessel so she can clear the bottom and move out of the channel. Shepler’s Sacre Bleu freight boat (left) makes a morning run to Mackinac Island as another round of thunderstorms approaches the Straits. Round Island Passage Light is at right.

American Spirit was refloated with the assistance of the tug Missouri and the American Steamship freighter Sam Laud. The Sam Laud, travelling north to Silver Bay, Minnesota, was brought alongside the American Spirit where the Spirit’s unloading equipment was used to transfer some of its taconite to the smaller vessel. Once the freighter was lightened, it was freed with some pulling assistance from the tug Missouri and sailed to an anchorage point off the north shore of St. Ignace so crews from the Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping could inspect the vessel. The inspection was expected to take several hours Friday, after which the freighter could proceed on to Indiana Harbor.

The two freighters about 6:45 Friday morning. According to Mackinac Island East Bluff resident Susan Myron, they began to unload the American Spirit taconite onto the Sam Laud between 4:30 and 5 o’clock, then moved east out of the shipping channel about 7:15 a.m., still tied together, bow to stern.  Once free of the channel, they unhooked and American Spirit moved under her own power around the north end of the Island to rendezvous with the Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay off the shore of St. Ignace. (Photograph by Susan Myron)The two freighters about 6:45 Friday morning. According to Mackinac Island East Bluff resident Susan Myron, they began to unload the American Spirit taconite onto the Sam Laud between 4:30 and 5 o’clock, then moved east out of the shipping channel about 7:15 a.m., still tied together, bow to stern. Once free of the channel, they unhooked and American Spirit moved under her own power around the north end of the Island to rendezvous with the Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay off the shore of St. Ignace. (Photograph by Susan Myron)“There was great coordination and collaboration between the Coast Guard and the American Spirit to make plans to refloat the vessel in a safe and quick manner,” Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer Lt. Junior Grade Derek Puzzuoli said, noting American Steamship submitted its salvage plan for the freighter early Friday morning.

Mr. Puzzuoli said there were no reports of any other vessels having trouble related to the storm. A small craft advisory was in effect overnight owing to the weather.  

The American Spirit is the largest vessel in American Steamship’s fleet. The company operates six 1,000-foot freighters, including Burns Harbor, Indiana Harbor, Walter J. McCarthy, American Century, and American Integrity.

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