Group Wants Shorter Shipping Season In Wake Of Seaway Snag

Group Wants Shorter Shipping Season In Wake Of Seaway Snag

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Courtesy: John Astafan III Courtesy: John Astafan III

The "Federal Biscay" was stuck in Snell Lock near Massena last week. After days of working around the clock, seaway workers, including divers, freed the ship over the weekend, six days after the seaway was supposed to close for the season.

The environmental group Save The River says the "Federal Biscay's" trouble is the reason the shipping season should be shortened.

"We've always felt that the seaway pushes the season. We also think that the length of the season is too long," said Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper at Save The River.

Willbanks says when a ship gets stuck in ice, it puts ships' crews, seaway workers and first responders at risk and there are also environmental concerns. He says Save The River was told the seaway was considering using road salt - or deicing chemicals - Which could harm the river. That led to another concern. He says there was a lack of communication from the seaway.

"We had to learn from others, not the seaway or the Coast Guard or New York state that the de-icing chemicals used on planes that was being considered as an agent to get them out. Probably unacceptable. "We were hearing about it from everybody but the seaway. I think for us it highlighted another issue," said Willbanks.

Willbanks wants a discussion about shortening the shipping season and a formalized plan in case a ship gets stuck again. And he says environmental groups, responders and the ship crews all need to have a seat at the table.

"We're past the heat of the moment, of trying to get the ship out. It was gotten out safely, the others followed, so now we can reflect on how it should be done in a way that works for everybody, we can't just continue to collect tolls, pushing ships through the seaway without thinking about the cost that may accrue somewhere else,"  said Willbanks.

Willbanks doesn't believe the road salt or de-icing chemicals were used to free the ship. We asked the seaway about it but we didn't get a response to that question.

But seaway officials did respond to Willbanks' demand for transparency. They point out 4 media advisories were issued while the "Federal Biscay" was stuck and more updates would have happened if events warranted it.

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