MINNEAPOLIS – A German-operated cargo ship that was force to stay outside a Lake Superior port in Minnesota for more than a month over alleged environmental violations was allowed to dock Wednesday, and port authorities said they were hopeful that the oceangoing ship would be allowed to leave in time to avoid getting stuck for the winter.
The M/V Cornelia sailed underneath the landmark Aerial Lift Bridge into the Duluth harbour around 4 p.m. Wednesday to take on fuel at a public marine terminal, Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokeswoman Adele Yorde said. The ship was then expected to shift to a berth for the night to load supplies and pump out several weeks’ worth of wastewater, she said.
“We’re waiting like everybody else is for official word from the Coast Guard that an official agreement has been reached, but we are all assuming this is what this movement signals, and that she’ll be able to depart by the weekend,” Yorde said.
A Coast Guard spokesman in Cleveland, Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Yaw, confirmed that the ship was given permission to dock and fuel up, but he said he had no information on when it would be allowed to leave, the status of negotiations between the Coast Guard and the ship’s operators, or whether any of the crew members would be allowed off the ship while it’s in port.
The Coast Guard has said that it detained the ship over the discharge of oily water somewhere other than Duluth, but hasn’t said where the alleged violations happened. It wanted to have a security agreement in place before releasing the vessel.
The crew of 19 Czechs, Ukrainians, Filipinos and Croatians went into town when the ship first docked, Yorde said, but they had not set foot on dry land since taking on a load of grain bound for Tunisia in early November. Instead, they remained anchored less than a mile outside the harbour with little to do but wait.
Oceangoing ships typically try to leave Duluth no later than Dec. 18 because of the time it takes to cross the Great Lakes before the St. Lawrence Seaway closes for the winter.
Yorde said she was heartened by the outpouring of concern for the crew from the Duluth-Superior community, where shipping is one of the main industries. Callers offered supplies and Christmas gifts, but there was no way to deliver them to the crew, she said.
The 576-foot, Liberian-flagged Cornelia is managed by the German shipping company MST Mineralien Schiffahrt. Company officials didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday.