Ope! 1,000-foot ship runs aground in Duluth Ship Canal, hits underwater base of north pier

The ship was loaded with iron ore destined for Ohio, but is now back in the harbor.

ship scrapes canal.jpg
The Presque Isle scraped the side of the canal as it left Duluth on Monday. (Still frame from video taken by Mike Burbul)

A 1,000-foot ship loaded with iron ore pellets ran aground on the base of the Duluth Ship Canal's north pier Monday morning.

At about 7:13 a.m., the Presque Isle, an integrated barge and tug and one of the longest ships on the Great Lakes, passed under the Aerial Lift Bridge, but did not center itself between the piers and appeared to scrape up against the north pier until it came to a stop, video by bystanders and Duluth Harbor Cam webcams show.

Although initial eyewitness reports described the ship as "scrapping" or "colliding" with the north pier, Steven Brossart, Duluth area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said an initial inspection shows no damage to the pier's structure.

The inspection did show the ship likely ran aground on the scour stone that runs along the base of the pier where the steel pilings meet the canal bottom. The rocks are placed there to prevent material from washing out from under the structure, Brossart said.


"Our initial survey assessments that we've done out there today indicate that the vessel did not impact the pier ... the grinding noise I think you heard was the bottom of the vessel impacting the scour stone near the bottom of our structure," Brossart said.

As of now, no repairs are needed as the stone is just "squashed and removed a little bit" and should not impact the navigation channel, Brossart said.

After a few minutes of the Presque Isle sitting aground near the pier, the ship was put into reverse, centered in the canal and continued out to Lake Superior where it sat off the shore of Park Point for several hours.

Just before 2:30 p.m. Monday, the ship passed back through the canal and into the harbor without incident. It is now in the slip between Lake Superior Warehousing and the Clure Terminal Expansion on Rice's point.

Damage to the ship is unknown.

It is standard procedure for the U.S. Coast Guard — and if needed, also the American Bureau of Shipping — to inspect a ship after an incident before it can return to service.

The Coast Guard did not immediately return the News Tribune's request for comment.


The cause of the grounding is not yet known.

Presque Isle owner Key Lakes, which operates the Great Lakes Fleet for Canadian National Railway, declined to comment Monday.

The Presque Isle sits off of Park Point on Monday afternoon several hours after it brushed the north pier of the Duluth Ship Canal while leaving Duluth. (Steve Kuchera /

This story was updated at 4:10 p.m. July 13 with additional information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which believes the ship ran aground on the base of the north pier. It was originally posted at 1:52 p.m. July 13.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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