Conneaut, Ohio — A charter captain who works from Conneaut Harbor on Lake Erie says that there were efforts underway to locate and recover a submerged tug boat and capsized barge. The pair broke free from the dock there during the “bomb cyclone” storm on Dec. 23.
According to a representative at the Port of Conneaut, they belong to Canadian National Railway, a commercial ship and rail company headquartered in Quebec. The barge that was carrying an excavator was successfully located outside the creek channel.
Calls and e-mails to the media representative for Canadian National from Ohio Outdoor News resulted in an official reply of “no comment.”
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) was more forthcoming, however.
Lieutenant Junior Grade William Kelley (LTJG), public information officer for the USCG Buffalo Sector, said that on Dec. 23 a work tug and barge (said to be loaded with an excavator) capsized in Conneaut Creek.
During Ohio Outdoor News’ initial conversation with Kelley on Jan. 4, it was his understanding that the barge and excavator were located, but the tug boat, the 25-foot William Dora, had not been found.
Municipal workers at the Port of Conneaut have been told during conversations with the recovery crew that the tug boat is believed to have drifted downstream into Pennsylvania waters of Lake Erie.
When questioned about whether a Hazard to Navigation Notice had been issued, LTJG Kelley replied that since its’ whereabouts is unknown, it cannot be confirmed to be in a commercial shipping channel, thus it does not meet the criteria for issuing that specific alert.
He added that the owner had reported that the tug was carrying 50 gallons or less of fuel (presumeably diesel), which has thus far not been discovered to be leaking.
However, that assessment could change if an oily sheen is seen when the vessel is located. The USCG is the lead agency tasked with the investigation, containment, and recovery of marine fuel spills in coastal waters and deep-water ports.
The company is employing sonar instruments in an on-going search for the submerged tug. In a follow-up call to the Port of Conneaut at press deadline on Jan. 6, the barge had not been retrieved nor had the tug yet been located.