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Shipping Company Charged in Straits Anchor Strike

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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Earlier this month, Enbridge Energy's Line 5 pipeline and a nearby electric cable housing under the Straits of Mackinac sustained damage, and the reason has now been confirmed, at least by Michigan's attorney general: a vessel operated by VanEnkevort Tug and Barge dropping anchor over the area.

According to 9 & 10 News, the tug Clyde S. VanEnkevort stands accused of dropping anchor in the Straits, causing irreparable harm to two of American Transmission Company's cables and releasing 600 gallons of dielectric fluid into the water. The oil has reportedly not harmed any animals or the environment.

Pipeline and Cable Damage

Line 5, the 65-year-old liquids pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac, was shut down temporarily after the leak from the nearby submerged electric line was found April 1, raising concerns that a ship anchor or other object may have damaged the cable’s housing. Anchor drops are prohibited in the area of the Straits where the lines are.

U.S. Coast Guard

Earlier this month, the Line 5 pipeline, along with nearby electric cable housing, was damaged and subsequently shut down, and the reason has now been confirmed—VanEnkevort Tug and Barge dropping anchor over the area.  

While the pipeline was restarted by April 4, it was revealed that Enbridge found damage to the pipeline, likely linked with the same incident. The company reportedly uncovered three small dents; officials say the dents do not compromise the line’s integrity.

Findings

While the damage was minor, Attorney General Bill Schuette is planning on civil action against VanEnkevort Tug and Barge.

“The vessel ignored markers in the channel and clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that make clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of the Straits," said Schuette. "Allowing a large anchor to drag along the bottomlands in the Straits has resulted in violations of state law, and we will hold VanEnkevort accountable.”

Schuette is going after the company because of the material that was leaked into the Straits, with the tug’s operator facing liability of up to $25,000 per day of violation, including court costs and damages.

A spokesperson from VanEnkevort Tug & Barge said that the company is “fully participating” with the Coast Guard regarding the investigation into the incident. To date, responders have extracted 300 gallons of the fluid from the cables. Moving forward, contractors Durocher Marine and T&T Subsea will use side-scanning sonar and ROV to assess the full extent of the damage.

While the attorney general's office has publicly accused VanEnkevort in the incident, the Coast Guard's investigation has not yet wrapped up.

   

Tagged categories: Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management

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