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Long-stalled freighter Cornelia returns to harbor to take on fuel, supplies

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The Cornelia nears the Duluth Ship Canal on Wednesday afternoon. The ship entered the harbor to refuel and take on provisions. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 3
The Cornelia rides at anchor off of Park Point earlier this month. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 3

It appears that the oceangoing freighter Cornelia may be near its ultimate departure after six weeks of detainment offshore from Duluth.

The German-owned vessel returned to the Duluth harbor on Wednesday afternoon, passing under the Aerial Lift Bridge just before 4 p.m. It was on its way to the Clure Public Marine Terminal to refuel and take on provisions, said Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokeswoman Adele Yorde.

The vessel was set to dock overnight, Yorde said; she also confirmed that a pilot had been assigned to the ship. Foreign vessels are required to have on board a U.S. or Canadian pilot to help them navigate the shipping channels through the Great Lakes.

The Cleveland-based 9th District of the U.S. Coast Guard, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, has been investigating the ship for “violations related to the discharge of oily water.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Yaw said he could not yet confirm if the Cornelia was preparing for a departure from Duluth.

“I can tell you they are coming in to get fuel and pump off wastewater,” Yaw said Wednesday.  

The ship took on a full load of grain bound for ports in the Mediterranean Sea during the first week of November at the CHS terminal in Superior before being brought to anchor outside Duluth, where it has remained since Nov. 5.

The 575-foot Cornelia has been faced with a rough deadline of Friday to depart Duluth. After that, it would risk not reaching the Welland Canal between lakes Erie and Ontario by the time it closes for the season on Dec. 26.

Oceangoing vessels then need to exit the last set of locks in Montreal before the St. Lawrence Seaway System closes on Dec. 30.
The United States Coast Guard said earlier this month it has been negotiating a security agreement that would permit the vessel to leave port while maintaining the integrity of its investigation into the ship. MST, the ship's German operator, has said a decision is in the hands of the ship’s owners in Bremen, Germany.

The crew — a diverse mixture of nationalities, hailing from Czech Republic, Ukraine, Croatia and Philippines — has been aboard the ship throughout the ordeal, last touching ground while the ship was docked in the Superior Bay in early November.