Collision in Welland Canal Continues To Hamper St. Lawrence Seaway

Monday, August 13, 2001
Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway will remain badly disrupted for at least another day, Canadian marine authorities said on Monday, as an investigation continues into an accident in which a 730-ft. (222-m) freighter smashed into a lift bridge across the Welland Canal and burst into flames.

The Canadian grain carrier Windoc, carrying 26,000 tons of wheat, struck the bridge after it began to lower prematurely. The collision, which took place late Saturday, tore off the ship's wheelhouse and smokestack, setting the stern of the vessel ablaze and lighting up the night sky over the small town of Allanburg, Ontario.

The ship's crew of 22 escaped with minor injuries, but the accident shut down the Welland Canal linking Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects international shipping with ports on the Great Lakes in Canada and the United States.

Sylvie Moncion, a spokeswoman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., said the bridge must now be raised and the ship towed out of the way before the canal can be reopened to shipping.

Traffic is disrupted on the Seaway system as 25 ships are now waiting to go through the canal, said Moncion.

Estimated cargo traffic on the Welland Canal was 37 million tons in 2000, much of which was shipments of iron ore and wheat for both North American and international markets.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, which is expected to total several million dollars in damages to both the ship and the bridge.

Firefighters remained at the scene more than 24 hours after the accident, with local media reporting they had to extinguish a second, smaller blaze that flared up on Monday morning. - (Reuters)

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