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Salvage crews will attempt to refloat grounded Seaway vessel

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CAPE VINCENT — The Montreal-bound cargo vessel Orsula remained grounded off of Tibbetts Point since early Wednesday, but salvage operations weren’t expected to begin until Friday evening.

No oil leaks, pollution of any sort or injuries were reported. Local divers surveyed the vessel and determined the outer hull had not been breached.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said Friday morning that the 656-foot vessel was still “stuck hard on rocks” and needs to be “lighted” by offloading some or all of the wheat it’s carrying.

“The biggest problem is that the Seaway is supposed to shut down on Dec. 30,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer Lauren Laughlin.

Owned by Atlant Bulkers Corp., Croatia, and operating under a Marshall Islands flag, Orsula was transporting 21,000 metric tons of wheat from Duluth, Minn., to Montreal, Quebec.

The company will not be able to make the delivery unless Orsula is refloated promptly or another ship makes the delivery for it.

The circumstance of the grounding is still under investigation, but the ship ran aground at 12:37 a.m. Christmas day while more than 20 vessels were lined up on the St. Lawrence Seaway due to transit delays caused by an early-freezing of the river.

McKeil Marine Ltd., Hamilton, Ontario, was hired for the salvage work and barges from Kingston, Ontario, also will assist in offloading the wheat from Orsula — which was expected to begin shortly after 4 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. spokeswoman Nancy T. Alcalde said the grounded ship is “out of the way” and is not holding up traffic along the shipping channel.

While she could not provide the number of vessels still in transit, Ms. Alcalde said several ships are moving forward “slowly but steadily” to complete their journeys.

According to the Seaway’s online transit map, 32 vessels were navigating the shipping channel between Kingston and Montreal Friday afternoon with 17 listed as “delayed.”

The Seaway intends to get them all through before the shipping channel closes for the season midnight Monday.

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