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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 Tibbetts Point for a third day as salvage operations were expected to begin late Friday.

No fuel leak, pollution or injuries were reported. Local divers surveyed the vessel and determined that the outer hull had not been breached.

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.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman said Friday morning that the 656-foot vessel was “stuck hard on rocks” and needed to be “lighted” by offloading some or all of its cargo.

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

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

The ship ran aground at 12:37 a.m. Christmas Day. The circumstances remained under investigation. Meanwhile, more than 20 vessels were lined up on the Seaway because of transit delays caused by an early freezing of the St. Lawrence River.

McKeil Marine Ltd., Hamilton, Ontario, was hired for the salvage work, and barges from Kingston, Ontario, 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” on Lake Ontario and is not holding up traffic.

While she could not confirm the number of vessels in transit, Ms. Alcalde said several ships were 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 on Friday afternoon, with 17 listed as “delayed.”

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

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