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Cold slows efforts to repair ship

The recent cold weather has slowed repair efforts on the Walter J. McCarthy Jr. Workers had hoped to have the hole in the laker's hull covered by a coffer dam by now, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Aaron Gross, chief of port operations for the Duluth ...

The recent cold weather has slowed repair efforts on the Walter J. McCarthy Jr.

Workers had hoped to have the hole in the laker's hull covered by a coffer dam by now, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Aaron Gross, chief of port operations for the Duluth Marine Safety Unit.

"The weather has slowed them up," Gross said this morning. "The divers need to get down there and look at the hull, but ice has built up on the exterior of the hull."

Workers have finished pumping water from the ship's ballast tanks, which has dropped the level of water in the McCarthy's engine room from 20 feet to 5 feet.

Once the coffer dam is in place, workers will "slip that down, seal up the damage and make repairs from the inside and finish pumping off the water."

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The water in the engine room will be treated in case it has been contaminated with oil, fuel or grease.

Once the engine room is pumped dry, officials will be able to determine if the ship's four engines can be repaired where the ship is or whether it will have to enter dry dock.

The 1,000-foot-long laker's engine room flooded Jan. 14 after a submerged object punctured the McCarthy's hull as the ship was backing into a slip at Superior's Hallett No. 8 Dock about 11:30 a.m. The McCarthy's crew closed the engine room's watertight doors and evacuated the room as the ship's stern settled to the bottom in 20 feet of water.

The McCarthy is 1,000 feet long, 105 feet wide and has a dead weight capacity of 62,100 gross tons. It needs 27.5 feet of water to float. The ship transports western coal from Superior to Detroit Edison's St. Clair, Mich., and Monroe, Mich., power plants. Built as the Belle River by the Bay Shipbuilding Corp. at Sturgeon Bay, Wis., the ship entered service in 1977. It was renamed the McCarthy in 1990 to honor the former chairman of the Detroit Edison Co.

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