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U.S. Coast Guard responds to American Mariner freighter accident

USCG says there were no reported injuries. The river remains closed to shipping traffic this evening

At approximately 1 a.m. Thursday, the American Mariner, a 714-foot bulk cargo ship, struck the Mud Lake Junction Buoy in Munuscong Lake with their bow, according to U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Northern Great Lakes in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Munuscong Lake is part of the St. Marys River navigational system, about three miles north of Raber in Chippewa County.

The freighter was heading upbound to Silver Bay, MN when the accident occurred.

The vessel was not carrying cargo at the time of the incident. There were no reported injuries on board.

USCG Sector Northern Great Lakes responded with boats from Station Sault Ste. Marie, a helicopter from Air Station Traverse City and the Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, home-ported in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service has closed the St. Marys River from Nine Mile Point to Point Aux Frenes until the vessel can be safely moved from the channel. There is no estimated time for reopening.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the river was still closed to traffic.

The W.I. Scott Purvis and Anglian Lady tugs are assisting at the scene.

The freighter remains anchored at the scene.

USCG Lt. Joseph Snyder said this is an investigation with different things to examine.

The first task, Snyder says, is to find out exactly what happened to cause the freighter to hit the navigational aid. 

"We have Coast Guard investigators that are gathering the totality of the facts and circumstances before they can make a final determination. We are glad that vessel is in stable condition and no pollution has been reported," Snyder said.

The second is to find out what damage, if any, the vessel suffered.

"The vessel struck the navigational aid on the port side (left front). We will have crews go below the water line and check for damage," Snyder added.

Another part of the investigation is learning the extent of damage to the navigational aid and what repairs it may need.

This particular Mud Lake navigational (junction) aid is located just south of Neebish Island, where upbound and downbound traffic meet, making it crucial to the shipping industry.

"The aids to navigational team has already been out there today evaluating the condition and making sure it is in a condition where we can continue to have traffic flow through that area once we are able to resolve this situation," Snyder said.

Snyder says all the facts will be looked at before determining the cause.

"We need to get this waterway back open to the commercial traffic while prioritizing the safety of our first responders, the vessel crew as well as taking into consideration any environmental considerations with this boat," Snyder added.