Steel mill-bound ship, icebreaker crash at sea

2014-01-06T09:00:00Z 2014-05-19T10:26:43Z Steel mill-bound ship, icebreaker crash at seaJoseph S. Pete, (219) 933-3316

GARY | A Great Lakes freighter hauling iron ore to the Gary Works steel mill rear-ended a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker that was cutting a path through the frozen surface of Lake Michigan.

Both vessels were damaged in the maritime collision, but no one was injured. Despite a breached hull and a pierced bow, the ships remained seaworthy and were able to press on to port, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Christopher Yaw.

The crash took place Sunday morning near the Straits of Mackinac in northern Lake Michigan when the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock was cutting a track for six shipping vessels that were carrying iron ore to a Gary steel mill.

The 225-foot Hollyhock, which is based out of Port Huron, Mich., and normally used to replace navigational buoys, was breaking ice in front of the massive 990-foot super carrier Mesabi Miner, which is named after a large iron ore range in upper Minnesota that provides much of the raw material for the local steel mills. The icebreaker hit a sturdy patch of ice and slowed down, and the freighter - the lead ship in the convoy - was not able to stop in time, said Yaw.

Coast Guard crew reported significant damage to the stern and fantail of the cutter, as well as two punctures in the hull. The breaches were 20 feet above the waterline, so the ship did not take water. The Mesabi Miner's bow was pushed in about 8 to 12 inches, and suffered a 12-inch crack in the bow about 4 feet above the waterline.

Neither ship flooded or released any pollutants.

After the crash, the Coast Guard sent the cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug, to escort the Hollyhock to St. Ignace, Mich., where it will undergo a more thorough damage assessment.

The Mesabi Miner remains en route to Gary, where it will unload its cargo before being assessed for further damage. Repairs likely will have to take place in Gary, Yaw said.

"We're doing an investigation to learn from what happened, and what led to it, as we would with any maritime incident," he said. "But commerce will continue, and the ice will continue to be broken."

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