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Freighter freed from ice, Seaway opened again

Finger Lakes Construction and Diving

The Marshall Island flagged Federal Biscay was finally dislodged from ice in the Snell lock near Massena this weekend. St. Lawrence Seaway crews, including three tugs, had worked for five days to move the massive international freighter. It was blocking passage for four other ships on their way down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal as the Seaway tries to close for the winter.

(Watch a video of the freighter being pulled out of the lock here.)

The four freighters began to continue their slow journey downriver on Sunday. The Mitiq was the first to make it through the Snell lock.

According to various ship watching blogs, icebreaking tugs are working to keep the channels clear between the two locks in Massena and downriver on the way to Montreal.

In a press release, the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said high-pressurized steam was the primary method used to melt the ice that had accumulated around the Federal Biscay while it was in the lock.

"The effort to free the vessel lasted several days and involved the hard work of many individuals under severe weather conditions," the press release said. "This included dedicated SLSDC work crews, technical experts from the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), the vessel operator (Fednav, Ltd.) and numerous contractors."

Credit George Condon via @PrescottAnchor on Twitter
The Federal Biscay had been lodged in ice in the lock since Tuesday. The remaining freighters in the Seaway system can now pass downriver so the Seaway can close for winter.

It has been an eventful and unwelcome end of the season for the St. Lawrence Seaway. Two days after Christmas, the Pacific Huron hit shoals and ran aground near Clayton.

Although there was minimal damage and no pollution or injuries, it took crews a couple days to get the freighter refloated. 

The waterway was supposed to close on New Year's Eve, but arctic cold and problems with ice delayed ships. Seaway officials say the shipping lanes will close for the winter once all five remaining vessels exit the system and head downriver.

According to the ship watching blog The Prescott Anchor, the plan is for all five ships to tie up below Snell lock and transit as a convoy downriver behind icebreakers. You can follow the action live with the Seaway's live map.

David Sommerstein, a contributor from North Country Public Radio (NCPR), has covered the St. Lawrence Valley, Thousand Islands, Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill regions since 2000. Sommerstein has reported extensively on agriculture in New York State, Fort Drum’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lives of undocumented Latino immigrants on area dairy farms. He’s won numerous national and regional awards for his reporting from the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He's regularly featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Only a Game, and PRI’s The World.
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