Ships running aground ‘nothing to do with water levels’: Bowles

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation CEO, Terence F. Bowles, and CFO Karen Dumoulin during the corporation's AGM on June 22, 2015. Bowles says the 'unhappy coincidence' of ships running aground or spilling fuel has nothing to do with water levels. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The head of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is ‘concerned’ about about the recent cases of ships running aground.

But in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, President and CEO Terence Bowles says the trend of ships getting stuck has “nothing to do with water levels.”

On Sunday, the cargo ship Tundra ran aground just east of Lancaster.

Bowles said the Tundra was grounded in “soft sand” and there is no damage to the ship.

He says, for some reason, the vessel travelled outside the narrow channel.

It comes days after the cruise ship Saint Laurent crashed into a bumper inside the Eisenhower Lock, injuring as many as 30 people on board.

Another ship, the Algoma Spirit, ran aground off the south shore of Cornwall Island last month after experiencing an electrical problem.

Meantime, in the Welland Canal, a ship spilled fuel Thursday prompting a shutdown of the canal.

“These incidences that have happened are sort of independent (of each other) and they’re going to be investigated. So, of course I’m concerned. We have to find why this happened and do our best to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” CEO Terence Bowles told Cornwall Newswatch.

But the CEO is adamant it’s nothing to do with water levels.

“So far, it has nothing to do with water levels. Water levels have been acceptable and water levels have not been our problem so far this year. That doesn’t mean later in the year we may not have water level issues,” Bowles said.

He says pilots and captains have technology on board that clearly shows where the boat shouldn’t travel.

“We have systems that show them the bottom of the waterway and anything that they would hit is red – it’s painted in red – on their screens so they can slow down,” he said.

The team from the Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Tundra case from Sunday.

“The biggest issue for us (the seaway) is that it interrupts traffic which is bad for the carriers. All these carriers are timed so when you get delays…it’s an expensive proposition for the carriers,” Bowles added.

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