Crews with the Canadian Coast Guard continued to work into Monday night on freeing the last of five freighters that became trapped in the icy waters of the St. Clair River this weekend.
Several Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers were called into action Sunday to rescue the freighters stuck near Port Lambton in ice that formed over the deep freeze this weekend.
While crews managed to free the fourth freighter and get it headed into Lake St. Clair Monday afternoon, the fifth and final freighter is stuck sideways in the channel near Fawn Island.
“It took all afternoon to get the one ship out and that was with the (Canadian Coast Guard ships) Griffon and the Samuel Risley working on that, but they were able to do it,” said Andy Maillet, superintendent of the Canadian Coast Guard's regional operations centre in Montreal.
“The Risley is now going back and they're going to see its ability to turn the [final] ship around and get it headed in the right direction.”
Shipping, in the meantime, has ground to a halt in the St. Clair River.
But the demand for the shipping route only continues to pile up, with more than a dozen ships waiting permission to enter the river as of Monday morning.
“We've got a stockpile of ships waiting to have access to the St. Clair River,” Maillet said, noting stakeholders, including local industry representatives, are being kept informed of the situation.
The success of Risley being able to free the final freighter was expected to determine whether the waiting vessels will be escourted as a convoy or at all Monday night, Maillet said earlier in the day.
“Before we determine allowing anybody else into the system, we're going to see what the Risley can do with this (final freighter) because this guy is sideways in the channel,” he said, “so we'll see if they can get him turned around and headed in the right direction.”
Environment Canada ice specialist Denis Lambert pointed to an ice block around Russell Island as the culprit for the blockage.
“There's an ice block at the bottom of the St. Clair River and that ice is actually forming in Lake Huron and it's just flushing down the river,” he said.
Both the Walpole-Algonac Ferry and the Bluewater Ferry servicing Sombra and Marine City have been suspended due to the ice in the river.