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Saltie that ran aground cleared to proceed

With Bentleyville in the background, the Orsula leaves Duluth shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, with a cargo of durum wheat. The Orsula was the last saltie to leave the Twin Ports this year. (Steve Kuchera /

The last saltie to leave the Duluth port and the Great Lakes has been floated after running aground at the entrance to the St. Lawrence Seaway last week. It was given clearance to proceed through the seaway, escorted by tugs, and was nearing Montreal this morning. It wasn't clear if the saltie, filled with wheat from Superior, will be able to make its planned voyage to Italy.

The Orsula, loaded with 21,000 metric tons of durum wheat, left Duluth Dec. 19 in a race to get through the seaway before its scheduled closure today. It ran aground at 12:37 a.m. on Christmas Day near Tibbetts Point, N.Y., at the entrance of the seaway. There had been at least 20 ships lined up to enter the seaway after early icing on the St. Lawrence River caused delays.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard announced its efforts to refloat the ship. A salvage team was sent in to take off some of the 20,000 metric tons of wheat and place it in a barge. A dive team found that most of the hull was resting on rocks and there was "significant damage to the propeller."

No injuries or polluting of waters was reported in the incident.

The Coast Guard said the ship hadn't posed a danger to shipping traffic. It was floated at 5:35 p.m. Sunday, but it wasn't clear if the load was put back.

The ship tracker on the website for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System showed the Orsula this morning making it halfway to Montreal from the seaway opening on Lake Ontario. It was running behind at least 18 other ships. The seaway is set to close at 11:59 p.m. today.