Casualty News February 2021

Historic workboat sinks on Milwaukee waterfront
A historic Lake Michigan workboat took on water and sank on the morning of Feb. 21 in Milwaukee.

City authorities told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Harbor Seagull likely started taking on water that morning or possibly a day earlier. The boat is operated by the Port of Milwaukee.

The cause of the sinking is unknown. The vessel was built 60 years ago, and it has remained an active presence in and around Milwaukee. Its most recent assignment was on Feb. 20, when it was deployed for icebreaking on the Kinnickinnic River near Milwaukee.

Salvage efforts began soon after the vessel sank, and it was raised on Feb. 23. Additional details about the sinking were not available, including the possibility of returning the vessel to service.

Former Alaska ferry raised from Anacortes waterway
Chilkat, once part of the Alaska State Ferry fleet, has been raised from Guemes Channel near Anacortes, Wash.

The 99-foot vessel sank on Jan. 13 after breaking free from a repair yard during a strong storm. A floating concrete dock sank and Chilkat and two other vessels broke free. Chilkat drifted in the wind and sank near the Guemes Island Ferry terminal.

Salvage crews lifted the former ferry onto a barge on Jan. 27, according to the Skagit Valley Herald. Divers reportedly wrapped chains around Chilkat in preparation for lifting it off the seafloor.

The 59-passenger, 15-vehicle ferry was built by J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding. It entered service in June 1957, two years before Alaska became a state and six years before the Alaska Marine Highway began formal operations. It was retired in late 1988 after serving multiple routes in southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound.

After it left the ferry system fleet, Chilkat worked briefly as a scalloper for a private fishing business. Its interior components were removed and the hull underwent modifications.

US-bound Maersk boxship loses 260 containers
The containership Maersk Eindhoven lost propulsion briefly in the Pacific Ocean near Japan while sailing to Los Angeles, and the ensuing rolling caused hundreds of containers to fall overboard. The ship also sustained minor damage.

Preliminary reports suggest 260 boxes were lost and several dozen more remained on the ship but were damaged.

The 13,500-TEU ship registered in Denmark is the latest vessel to lose shipping boxes in the Pacific. Maersk Essen lost 750 containers in January while sailing to Los Angeles, and ONE Apus lost nearly 2,000 containers while sailing to Long Beach, Calif., in late November.

In a prepared statement, Maersk officials confirmed the temporary propulsion failure aboard Maersk Eindhoven. The company attributed the loss of power to an engine oil pressure issue that triggered an automatic shutdown. Additional details were not available.

Maersk Eindhoven turned back for Japan and docked in Yokohama to address shifting among its remaining cargo and to undergo minor repairs.

Casualty flashback: February 1946
The loaded coal barge Lake Crystal, under tow by the tugboat Nottingham, sank in Block Island Sound off Rhode Island in heavy seas. Seven people died.

The 254-foot steel barge carried roughly 3,500 tons of coal when it foundered near Watch Hill, R.I., on Feb. 14, 1946. The tow was en route to Providence.

According to news accounts from the time, the barge was being towed by a hawser when it signaled to Nottingham for assistance. The tug circled back but was unable to reach the barge before it sank.

The 125-foot Coast Guard cutter Yeaton responded and rescued one survivor in a life raft, according to an account in The New York Times. Two mariners in the raft had already died. It’s not clear how much time elapsed between the barge encountering trouble and the Coast Guard cutter reaching the life raft.

It’s also not clear what caused the barge to sink. The vessel remains on the seafloor in 130 feet of water.

Categories: Maritime Casualty Newsletter