'Cork In a bottle': Ship Jammed in Icy Seaway

Tugs work to dislodge the Federal Biscay from ice in the Snell lock on the St. Lawrence Seaway [Michelle Laffin]

By David Sommerstein

Prolonged arctic cold is wreaking havoc on the maritime industry across the Great Lakes. The latest problem: A commercial freighter is stuck in ice in a lock near Massena, N.Y., and it's preventing the St. Lawrence Seaway from closing for the winter. 

The St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. said in a news release that the Federal Biscay is “immobilized due to the heavy ice build-up on the lock wall as well as on the vessel’s hull,” but there is no damage.

Workers are trying to free the ship from the Snell Lock. It's one of a series of locks on the Seaway, which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Michael Folsom of the Ship Watcher website says the deep freeze hit just as the last ships of the season were heading east to leave the Seaway system.

"As the Federal Biscay entered the lock, it pushed ice in with it. And there’s only a few feet on either side of the ship within the lock and it just created this logjam," Folsom says. "It’s the cork in the bottle, and that cork’s in so tight, even three tugs can’t get it out."

The Federal Biscay is blocking four other international freighters from continuing downriver toward Montreal.

Seaway officials say the shipping channel will close once all five ships get through. That won’t be easy, with more arctic cold forecast through the weekend.

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