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Grounded ship refloated; in transit to Montreal

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CAPE VINCENT — After being stuck on a rock off Tibbetts Point for five days, the Orsula was completing its journey along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Montreal on Monday.

As it turned out, the vessel’s propeller wasn’t as badly damaged as first thought, and Orsula was traveling on its own power as of 3:25 a.m. Monday, escorted by a tug boat as a precaution.

Owned by Atlant Bulkers Corp., Croatia, and operating under a Marshall Islands flag, the 656-foot Orsula ran aground off Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent early Christmas morning.

A portion of the ship’s cargo — 21,000 metric tons of wheat it was carrying from Duluth, Minn. — had to be offloaded by salvage crews over the weekend for the ship to be refloated.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Thomas T. Pequignot said that the ship was freed from a flat rock it was sitting on at 5:50 p.m. Sunday and that no oil leaks or injuries were reported.

Local divers determined that the outer hull had not been breached.

McKeil Marine Ltd., Hamilton, Ontario, was hired for the salvage work, and barges from Kingston, Ontario, assisted.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation, Lt. Pequignot said. When the ship ran aground at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday, more than 20 vessels were delayed along the Seaway due to early freezing of the St. Lawrence River.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. spokeswoman Nancy T. Alcalde said Orsula and other vessels still in transit were expected to clear the Seaway before it officially closed last night.

“Our intent is to get everybody through before midnight,” she said Monday.

Ms. Alcalde had said Orsula was “out of the way” and did not cause further delays.

As of 9:30 p.m. Monday, 14 ships were still navigating the shipping channel between Kingston and Montreal, according to the Seaway’s online transit map.

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