The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District successfully salvaged a USACE tug that sank in the federal channel in the St. Marys River near Lake Superior Monday morning.
USACE sent three vessels from the Soo Area Office, in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to recover the tug Hammond Bay this morning. The crane barge Harvey, with assistance from the derrick barge Nicolet and derrick barge Howard J. Schwartz, lifted the vessel out of the channel at 2:50 p.m. this afternoon. The tug was raised to the surface using divers to rig the vessel and then it was pumped out to refloat. The tug is being taken to the Soo Area Office where arrangements will be made assess the vessel and refurbish where possible.
During initial inspections of the vessel the crew noticed it looked structurally sound with all windows intact and no visible leaks. “It looks the same as it would if it were sitting at a dock” said a crew member, when the vessel was initially found underwater.
The cause of the incident, with no reported injuries, will be under investigation by a team of subject matter experts being pulled together as soon as the vessel is secured.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, the USACE tug Donald J. Billmaier was underway from the USACE Duluth Area Office to the Soo Area Office towing three barges and an unmanned USACE vessel, the tug Hammond Bay. While preparing to lock through the Soo Locks, the crew of the tug Billmaier lost sight of the tug Hammond Bay. After securing its barges, the Billmaier crew attempted to locate the lost tug. They conducted an initial search during the night to see if the tug was afloat and were unsuccessful.
The St. Marys River was closed to commercial vessel traffic until the tug Hammond Bay was found. Once the sunken vessel was found Monday morning (at 37 feet deep, 425 feet into the 2000 foot wide channel) the U.S. Coast Guard established a safety zone around the work area, marked the area, and then allowed one way traffic through the channel.
The tug Hammond Bay is used to ferry the USACE crew between the shore and other USACE vessels.
For any questions call Lynn Rose, public affairs officer at 313-226-4680.
Release no. 070313-001