Riverkeeper unhappy with efforts to free ship trapped in St. Lawrence

Nick Seebruch
Riverkeeper unhappy with efforts to free ship trapped in St. Lawrence

ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY – Lee Willbanks, the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper feels that efforts to free the Federal Biscay which is trapped in the ice near Massena.

The Federal Biscay is a large bulk shipping vessel that has been trapped in Snell Lock since Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Willbanks claims that there are at least four other ships behind the Federal Biscay waiting to pass through. Willbanks goes on to point out in a statement that was sent to the media that the St. Lawrence Seaway was supposed to close on Dec. 21.

“Based on the one statement the Seaway has issued it appears this prolonged delay resulted from the ship being allowed to enter the lock with significant ice present on its hull and in the lock,” Willbanks’ statement reads. “In the vacuum created by the Seaway’s silence all we have to go on are tweets and social media posts by followers and watchers of shipping on the River. Other than a reported “No further updates” from the Seaway, the press has had to rely on these “sources” as well.”

It is assumed that in Willbanks’ statement he is referring to the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation which is charged with maintaining the St. Lawrence River between the Port of Montreal and Lake Erie.

Willbanks is particularly critical of the lack of communication from the Seaway Corporation in his statement.

“Given the Seaway’s legal responsibility as “Captain of the Port” over the River and its enormous moral responsibility to do its part to protect the health of the River as a “shared user”, silence about its actions in response to an incident of this magnitude is a dereliction of its duty to the rest of us who share the River and rely on it remaining healthy and safe,” his statement reads. “It is reasonable to expect transparency and accountability from a public agency with such tremendous responsibility for and potential impact on our River. It is incumbent on us to demand transparency and accountability when it is not forthcoming.”

The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation released an update on Friday, Jan. 5 on the status of the Federal Biscay.

“Progress is being made, but extreme weather conditions are posing challenges and slowing progress,” the corporation’s statement reads. “The intent remains to get all five remaining vessels, including the Federal Biscay, out of the Seaway System for the winter.”

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