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New Great Lakes Freighter Runs Aground

Posted on May 19, 2023

DETROIT — A freighter laden with 21,000 metric tons of salt and 105,000 gallons of diesel fuel ran aground in the Detroit River after an electronics malfunction caused it to lose propulsion.

The vessel, the 639-foot lake freighter Mark W. Barker, was later refloated, following repairs, and assisted to Belle Isle for inspection, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Freighters regularly travel the waterway passing the popular island park. But they rarely come so close to the island, and the sudden arrival of the Mark W. Barker caused heads to turn, The Associated Press said.

“I came down here and I looked, and I was like, ‘whoa,’” Diane Reid told The Detroit News.

The freighter was bound for Milwaukee from Cleveland when it lost propulsion shortly after 7:30 a.m., The Detroit News reported.

“The vessel turned to port unexpectedly and the ship’s captain dropped the anchor before the bow grounded on the soft bank of the channel,” Chrissy Kadleck, spokeswoman for the Interlake Steamship Co., a Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based Great Lakes carrier that owns the ship, told The Detroit News.

“No one was injured in the incident nor does there appear to be any risk of pollution or damage to the vessel,” Kadleck said.

The Coast Guard worked with the vessel owner, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard to develop and execute the refloat plan.

It was refloated by 12:10 p.m.

“We worked closely with all relevant parties to ensure the safety of our waterways and the prompt resolution of this incident,” Lt. j.g. Adeeb Ahmad, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard’s Sector Detroit, said in a statement. “The successful refloating of the Mark W. Barker highlights our commitment to maintaining the safety and continuity of our maritime transportation system.”

Once the ship was moved to Belle Isle, with the aid of a towing vessel, Coast Guard investigators planned to assess any damage and ensure repairs were completed as necessary before the vessel resumed its voyage.

Throughout the incident, there were no immediate threats to people or the environment. Mariners were kept clear of the area but were able to continue transiting the river.

The Mark W. Barker remained stable throughout with no signs of pollution discharge or hull damage reported, the Coast Guard said.


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