‘Like a boot stuck in mud,’ can she ‘wiggle’ free?

The Chem Norma's position is shown relative to old Lock 23 off the Morrisburg waterfront, in an image created by overlaying an historical map of Morrisburg with current day information from Google Maps and marinetraffic.com. ©Google

Effort ongoing to free the Chem Norma from the side of submerged lock

MORRISBURG — Efforts remain ongoing today to “wiggle” the tanker free of the Morrisburg waterfront, where the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation has concluded the vessel is stuck in a muddy berm forming the outer side of old Lock 23 — partly informed by an overlay of historical and current Google mapping information assembled and supplied by Nation Valley News.

The resulting digital map sandwich, sent by our newsroom to the SLSMC this afternoon, “confirms the idea that the ship nosed into an earthen berm” on the south side of the old, submerged lock, without contacting the nearby remains of a concrete structure also lying below the surface, says SLSMC spokesperson Andrew Bogora.

“It confirms what we were looking at yesterday,” Bogora told NVN this afternoon. “We know there is a concrete structure off to the starboard side of the ship, some distance away. Your map shows exactly that.”

“Very nicely done!” he exclaimed in a subsequent email.

Bogora said they also know they’re dealing with an earthen berm because the ship’s anchor, when pulled up, was full of clay and silt.

The Chem Norma was westbound, headed for Sarnia with a cargo of a refined product, when a steering problem sent the tanker off the Seaway shipping channel shortly after 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning (May 29).

Comparing the tanker to a boot stuck in mud, the SLSMC spokesperson acknowledged the two tugboats on scene have so far failed to pull the Chem Norma free of the “little bit of suction” that’s keeping her in place. The tugs arrived from Montreal yesterday evening.

As a next step, he said, they hope to “wiggle” her loose by shifting the cargo between chambers on the tanker. If that doesn’t work, another tanker will be brought in to offload product.

Another option, though it’s not proposed in this case, would involve slowing the flow at the Cornwall dam to raise the water level in Lake St. Lawrence, the body of water between the city and Iroquois (also known as the St. Lawrence River). It’s been done in the past to free ships that have run aground, he said.

Lock 23 formed part of the Rapide Plat Canal that disappeared beneath floodwaters when the St. Lawrence Seaway was completed 60 years ago this summer.

Overseeing the effort to extricate the tanker from the lock’s remains are several entities, including SLSMC, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coastguard, Environment Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, according to Bogora.

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


Below, a live version of the map allowing a smartphone user to walk amid the buildings and streets that no longer exist on Morrisburg’s waterfront, as a result of the Seaway project completed 60 years ago this year. Just pinch and zoom as required. Hit the GPS crosshairs beacon (lower righthand corner) to see your location in real time.


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