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Published: Saturday, 12/25/2010

Efforts to free stuck freighter suspended in Detroit River

GROSSE ILE, Mich. — Efforts to free a nearly 600-foot coal-carrying freighter stuck in the Detroit River were suspended Saturday because not enough crew members were available on Christmas to operate tugboats needed to dislodge it, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Justin Westmiller said.

Westmiller said efforts to free the 579-foot McKee Sons were expected to resume Sunday.

“The company that owns the ship was unable to crew all five tugboats, so they decided there was no rush and chose not to continue,” he said.

Five tugboats momentarily dislodged the ship about 9 p.m. Friday from where the barge sat in mud in the Trenton Channel, about 18 miles south of Detroit. But as crews were “twisting to get it maneuvered around, it got stuck again” in the channel where rescuers are pulling against 3.5-knot currents, Westmiller said.

Two more tugboats are being brought from Ohio to try to help.

The “lake freighter” owned by Ohio-based Grand River Navigation is in good shape, and there's no threat to its crew, Westmiller said. The ship was headed from Cleveland to the Detroit Edison Pier when it got stuck about 3 a.m. Friday.

“It's less than 500 yards from its final destination,” Westmiller said.

The ship is not blocking commercial traffic on the river, and the tugs are trying to refloat it, he said.

Grand River Navigation officials were expected to submit a detailed salvage plan for Coast Guard approval before renewing salvage efforts for the ship that can carry up to 29,500 pounds. It is not immediately known how much coal was onboard when it ran aground.

A man who answered the phone at Grand River's headquarters said Saturday that he didn't have time to talk to reporters.

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