Photos: Salvors On Site for Roger Blough Response

Image courtesy USCG

By MarEx 2016-06-01 21:40:25

The U.S. Coast Guard and salvors with DonJon-Smit and ECM Maritime Services continued work Wednesday to evaluate the grounded Great Lakes self-unloader Roger Blough and prepare her for a refloat attempt. 

The crew remains aboard, thanks in part to a resupply effort, said Petty Officer Christopher Yaw: "They were actually running a little low on drinkable water . . . we got two tankers full of water taken out to them on a barge and that was successful," he said, speaking to local media.

Yaw said that salvors had identified damage to the hull in way of two forward ballast tanks but that the vessel was structurally sound. No pollution has been observed. “All indications thus far seem to reveal that the damage is in the forward section of the vessel and all fuel tanks are in the rear section,” said Ken Gerasimos, a representative of the Roger Blough's operator, Duluth-based Key Lakes Inc. “No fuel tanks are connected to the outer skin of the ship.” Officials are prepared but expect only a "very low risk" of a spill, a company spokesman said. A containment boom has been deployed around the Blough as a preventive measure, and the Coast Guard is using aircraft overflights to monitor the area. 

The Blough went aground right on the demarcation line between U.S. and Canadian waters, and the USCG has coordinated closely with Canadian counterparts on the response effort. Canada's Coast Guard Environmental Response division has deployed pollution control equipment to Saulte Ste. Marie, Ontario in order to have assets on hand.

The Blough is loaded with iron ore pellets, and her operator has dispatched two vessels, the Arthur M. Anderson and Philip R. Clarke, to lighter the cargo; they are expected to arrive Thursday. The Blough is a self-unloader with a side-deployed conveyor, and the company believes that the lightering vessels will be able to come alongside underneath the belt for a straightforward cargo transfer.

Salvors have submitted a complete salvage plan for official approval. The Coast Guard expects the vessel to be aground for at least a few more days; once refloated, she will be taken to Finantieri Bay Shipbuilding for repairs, reports the Duluth News Tribune. 

As of Wednesday, the Blough was attended by the tugs Mohawk and W.I. Scott Purvis and the U.S. Coast Guard vessel CG Mobile Bay. The Bay is enforcing a 500-yard safety vessel around the Blough, but she is not obstructing traffic, the USCG said. 

An investigation continues into the cause of the grounding. The National Transportation Safety Board is also onsite to look into circumstances leading to the incident; Mitch Koslow, a spokesman for her operator’s parent company, said that there were reports of fog and another vessel under tow at the time of the grounding.