Could take weeks to remove ship stuck in St. Lawrence

A container ship that ran aground in the St. Lawrence River near Trois-Rivieres, Que., could be stuck in the mud for weeks, Transport Canada said Thursday.

A container ship that ran aground in the St. Lawrence River near Trois-Rivières, Que., could be stuck in the mud for weeks, a Transport Canada official said Thursday.

The MSC Sabrina, a shipping vessel the size of a city block, weighs about 70,000 tonnes with its cargo. En route to Montreal from France, its black hull struck shore five days ago during the massive snowstorm that rattled Central and Eastern Canada.

The ship's owner has tried three times to move the ship, with no success. On Tuesday, five tugboats and an icebreaker tried to set it free.

"The ship, it didn't move at all," said Pierre LeBrun, a marine safety inspector with Transport Canada.

The shipping company will now have to lighten the weight of the vessel by offloading cargo onto a barge with a crane.

"This is a big logistic," LeBrun said. "We don't want the crane to take a container and, by accident, a container falls in the water."

The Panama-based firm that owns the boat has to draft a detailed plan of how it intends to proceed and submit it to Transport Canada for approval.

LeBrun said the vessel is not blocking or polluting the waterway, and the shipping company or its insurance will pay the full cost of the removal.

It's not the first time the MSC Sabrina has encountered trouble. The ship collided with a Dutch fishing vessel in June 2000 off the coast of the Netherlands, and 15 minutes later struck a British cargo boat. Neither accident resulted in major damage.