Chemical tanker runs aground at Morrisburg because of “steering issue”

The Chem Norma, photographed from the Morrisburg Dock before 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, May 29. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

‘No pollution observed around the ship’

Seaway traffic continues at reduced speed

Kelsey Smith
Nation Valley News

MORRISBURG — St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation Communications Officer Andrew Bogora tells Nation Valley News the Chem Norma ran aground at 4:09 a.m. “because of a steering issue.”

Bogora assured that although it is a tanker, there has been no spillage into the Seaway.

In the case of the Chem Norma, no water has been observed to penetrate the outside hull. No pollution has been observed around the ship.”

He also explained how there is very little chance of that ever happening.

All tankers on the Seaway must be double-hulled, which means that they are very sturdy vessels. Even if the outer hull is pierced, the inner hull remains intact, holding the liquid cargo.”

Tankers on the Seaway carry a variety of refined products (and not crude oil),” he added.

Water traffic continues but at a reduced speed, as the ship us not blocking the main area of traffic flow.

The ship was undergoing inspection this morning — since reported to have been completed. Once inspected, the ship “will attempt to free itself,” Borgora said.

It is not clear at this time whether the tanker will be able to be freed under its own power or if a tugboat will be needed.

“It will likely attempt to free itself first,” he said.

However, it is unclear as to when exactly the ship will continue its voyage. If a tugboat is needed it will be up to a vessel agent to determine which tugboat to use and “where it will be summoned from,” said Bogora, who offered the following analogy: “It’s like if you’re in a car accident on your way to work. At first you try to free yourself but if you have no luck you have to call a tow truck.”

Update: “Tugs are being summoned, but will not arrive on scene for some time. Vessel will stay in place until the tugs are available to assist,” Bogora confirmed shortly after 11 a.m. 

The ship was travelling upbound — heading towards Iroquois— and will continue up the river until it makes its next stop at the Iroquois Locks.

A similar grounding of a ship off the South Dundas coast occurred just short of a year ago, on June 16, a fact Borgora described as “surprising,” given the rarity of ships running aground on the Seaway.

He then explained that it is quite rare for a ship to do that.

“In a 286 days season there are nine to 12 vessels that travel by Morrisburg each day. In a full season less than a handful will touch ground,” he explained.

He also added how he hadn’t heard of a ship aground within the past four to five months.

The Seaway reopened for the season on March 29.  

Morrisburg resident Amy Casselman (in video below) said that she and her husband were awakened by the blasts of the Chem Norma’s horn this morning.

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