Company: "There Was No Danger" From Ship
A ship that passed through the American Narrows portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway earlier this week did not have a steering problem, according to the company which owns the vessel.
Earlier, Jefferson County officials and environmental advocates said they were concerned by the passage of the 'Sarah Desgagnes' Tuesday night. The ship, a tanker, was carrying a load of gasoline.
Before arriving at the narrows, the ship had been docked because of a steering issue, and passed through the narrows with a tug by its side. Those two facts, taken together, raised doubts along the St. Lawrence.
"Our emergency management director wasn't even called as a courtesy," county legislator Phil Reed told 7 News.
"It's a highway," he said. "We should have been notified."
(The narrows is a stretch of the Seaway between Alexandria Bay and Fisher's Landing. It's widely regarded as a tricky part of the waterway to navigate.)
Jennifer Caddick, the outgoing director of 'Save The River,' also had doubts.
"To allow something like that to happen when we know there is an actual serious risk of something happening, in this case losing steerage, we would question why regulators would allow that ship to continue forward," she said.
However, according to Mario Rossi, vice-president for operations with Groupe Desgagnes, there never was a steering problem.
The ship is only five years old, and its steering system had just been overhauled, according to Rossi.
Once the vessel entered the Seaway, a small drop in pressure in part of the mechanism that steers the ship was detected. Officials determined a hydraulic seal had blown, but when the steering was tested, the ship's rudder was still able to move in 18 seconds, a substantially shorter time than the 28 second standard used.
Nonetheless, Rossi said, the company purchased the services of the tug - $900 an hour - out of an abundance of caution. The tug was never used to steer the vessel, which operated on its own.
"There was no danger," he said.
The ship made its way to its destination in Sarnia, Ontario for repairs without incident, said Vicki Garcia, spokeswoman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
Thursday, May 23, 2013, Watertown, NY
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