Ships turn back after ice damage on Lake Superior

By KBJR News 1

March 28, 2014 Updated Mar 28, 2014 at 6:48 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The start of the 2014 shipping season has ground to a near halt by some of the worst lake ice in recent history.

The Presque Isle freighter and the Morro Bay cutter have sustained damage and are being forced to return to the Twin Ports for repairs.

Ships took off last week to try to make it to the Soo locks, planning to hug the shore to take advantage of the open water.

A flotilla of US Coast Guard cutters has been working overtime to break ice and clear a path for those outbound ships.

But ice four to five feet thick is still abundant on Lake Superior; in some places ridges of eight feet of ice have formed.
And even though there is some open water, wind can blow the ice back into the channel.
The Mackinaw along with the Katmai Bay and the Morro Bay were attempting to clear the way for the Presque Isle, which is carrying ore bound for the soo locks, which opened this week.
However, both the Morro Bay and Presque Isle took some damage from the powerful ice.
We don't know how bad the damage is on either ship, but we do know that there is not any fuel leakage.

"It's not just the thickness of the ice but the pressure that builds around the sides of vessels. All of that can result in issues like this. So, as I said, a slow start, a little stop, a little return and hopefully we'll get back on the water or through the ice." said Public Relations Manager for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Adele Yorde.

The Morro Bay should be back to Duluth Friday evening.

The Presque Isle will need to unload some cargo to make it sit higher so that it can make its way back for repairs and should be back sometime tomorrow.

UPDATE: The three U.S. Coast Guard cutter ships have made it safely back to port behind the DECC.

Bryce Henry
bhenry@kbjr.com