Stuck laker blocks ship canal

Tugboats work next to the Paul R. Tregurtha, which was grounded on the outbound channel of the St. Marys River on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, in Michigan. (Photo courtesy of John Shibley of Lake Superior State University)

A laker familiar to Duluth boatwatchers drew a different kind of crowd Wednesday in Michigan.

The Paul R. Tregurtha got stuck on the outbound channel of the St. Marys River that links lakes Superior and Huron, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Three other vessels were backed up behind it by Wednesday afternoon, and a fourth was approaching on Lake Superior.

The ship departed Duluth with a load of coal Monday. No one was injured during the early Wednesday accident, which the Coast Guard said didn’t puncture the cargo hold or fuel system or put the freighter at risk of overturning.

The Tregurtha, owned by Interlake Shipping Co. of Richfield, Ohio, was carrying 62,000 tons of coal, the Coast Guard said. The ship was grounded on the west side of Neebish Island, spanning the shipping channel.

“Smaller vessels can get by,” but larger freight-carriers needed to wait for the coal-hauler to be refloated, said Petty Officer Levi Read.

Inbound traffic was continuing unimpeded. Lt. Kenneth Scott said crews were hopeful they could refloat the freighter by late Wednesday or early today.