Officials investigating after ‘rare’ collision between ships in Welland Canal

Officials are investigating how two cargo vessels came to collide in the Welland Canal on Saturday during what should have been a routine manoeuvre.

Videos shared on social media show the Florence Spirit and Alanis crashing into one another, causing damage.

The canal is located in southern Ontario and connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. The collision occurred at about 4 p.m. near Port Robinson, said Jean Aubry-Morin, vice-president of external relations for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. He described the crash as “rare.”

“It’s a routine passage. It’s an area that is common. Obviously, as witnessed by the public, there was an unfortunate incident that the two vessels collided.”

Alanis was heading up the canal toward Duluth, Minn., with a load of wind turbine parts, while the Florence Spirit was heading down to Quebec with a load of coal, Aubry-Morin said.

No one was injured, and there was no fuel spill or other environmental impact, he said.

Both vessels have since been moved to safe locations, where they will undergo complete inspections.

Investigators are now working to determine how the two ships came to collide.

“We don’t know if it’s a mechanical failure of one of the vessels, most probably the Florence Spirit, or if it’s a manoeuvre issue. At this point, it’s too early to say,” Aubry-Morin said.

A ‘preferred location’ for passing

Vessels pass in that part of the canal hundreds of times each shipping season, especially at the location where the two ships crashed, he said.

“In fact, it’s a preferred location for passing because there’s plenty of space, speed is limited and it’s typically a safe area for passage,” Aubry-Morin said. “It’s very unfortunate that this situation happened. We are curious to find what caused the situation.”

He said Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) will also be investigating.

A news release from the TSB confirmed it’s deploying a team of investigators to the site to “gather information and assess the occurrence.”

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