Oil leak from ship closes part of Canada-U.S. Seaway

Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:09pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - An oil spill from a cargo vessel that ran aground near Montreal has forced the closure of a section of the important St. Lawrence Seaway shipping route until at least Wednesday.

Canada Steamship Lines' M/V Richelieu, which was carrying wheat, ran aground near the Cote Sainte-Catherine canal lock south of Montreal on Monday evening. The accident punctured the ship's fuel tank, leaking between 50 and 200 tonnes of bunker oil into the surrounding waters.

The South Shore Canal and the lock remained closed to support clean-up efforts by the Canadian Coast Guard as well as federal and provincial governments.

The leak has been contained and navigation will not resume until oil is removed from the channel, Andrew Bogora, a spokesman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp, said on Tuesday.

"First objective is to vacuum, if you will, the bunker fuel from the water," Bogora said. "Second step will be to remediate the banks of the canal."

Six ships are at anchor, waiting for the canal to reopen, possibly as early as Wednesday, Bogora said. He said he did not have information on environmental damage from the spill.

The Seaway, owned by the Canadian and U.S. governments, links central North America via the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and is a major shipping route for bulk commodities such as iron ore, steel, coal and grain.

In Ottawa, Transport Minister John Baird said government officials are watching the cleanup closely. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the accident.   Continued...