Canada-U.S. Seaway section may reopen Thursday

Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:22pm EDT
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A section of the important St. Lawrence Seaway shipping route will remain closed until at least Thursday morning as crews clean up spilled fuel oil after a cargo vessel ran aground on Monday.

A fuel tank on the Canada Steamship Lines vessel M/V Richelieu was punctured after the ship experienced propulsion problems during a sudden squall near the Cote Sainte-Catherine canal lock south of Montreal, leaking between 50 and 200 tonnes of oil into surrounding waters.

The South Shore Canal and the lock remained closed to support clean-up efforts around the ship.

"Progress is steady (and) we are looking at opening that canal (Thursday) morning sometime," Andrew Bogora, spokesman for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp, said on Wednesday.

Nine vessels have been delayed by the closure, he said.

CSL Group said that clean-up of the waters and the shore will take another six days, with additional booms installed along the shorelines to prevent the oil from spreading further.

Divers are installing steel plates to seal the breach in the vessel's hull to allow it to sail to Quebec City by Friday to unload its cargo of 24,700 tonnes of wheat owned by the Canadian Wheat Board.

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

(Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Peter Galloway)