Coast Guard continues to work with the Roger Blough

The Roger Blough ran aground Friday, May 27, 2016 in Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior. Information and pictures below, courtesy of US Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They are ordered from first to most recent
May 27, 2016
Coast Guard crews and the Aids to Navigation Team  from Sault Ste Marie, and the air crew from Air Station Traverse City, Michigan responded. Coast Guard pollution responders, vessel inspectors and marine casualty investigator arrived on board the vessel to assess vessel damage and crew safety. The Coast Guard has dispatched the cutter, Mobile Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug out of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to assist in on-going response operations. The Coast Guard is currently monitoring the situation and overseeing future salvage operations.
May 28, 2016
Throughout the night, U.S. Coast Guard boat crews conducted hourly exterior draft readings of the vessel while the crew of the Roger Blough also conducted interior soundings to the tanks each hour through the evening. Based on the stabilized draft readings and tank soundings, the flooding appears to be under control. Plans to safely remove the Roger Blough from the reef have begun. A U.S. Coast Guard Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, was launched to provide aerial photos but was diverted due to dense fog.
May 29, 2016
The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay (below, right),  enforced a 500 yard safety zone alongside the motor vessel Roger Blough to protect passing vessels from potential hazards associated with salvage operations. Sault Ste. Marie Vessel Traffic Service has also increased its measures on commercial traffic to ensure the safe passage of shipping near the safety zone.
The Roger Blough activated its vessel response plan, taking precautionary measures to ensure safety of the the environment. This includes coordination with their oil spill response organization to deploy oil containment equipment as well as underwater dive surveys to more effectively assess the damage and unground the vessel.
“All indications thus far seem to reveal that the damage is in the forward section of the vessel and all fuel tanks are in the rear section,” said Ken Gerasimos, a representative of Key Lakes Inc., the operating company of the Roger Blough. “No fuel tanks are connected to the outer skin of the ship.”
A Coast Guard Auxiliary aircrew conducted an overflight of the area Sunday morning and reported no signs of pollution.
The chance of a fuel spill remains minimal and flooding on the Blough remains stable. The crew remains in good condition.
The National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to arrive on Monday, May 30, to assist the Coast Guard in the investigation into the cause of the grounding.
May 29, 2016

Plans continue to progress to safely free the Blough from Gros Cap Reef in conjunction with Canadian partners and company representatives.

May 30, 2016
Responders placed a protective boom around the stern of the Blough strictly as a preventative measure around the location of the Blough’s fuel tanks.
The motor vessel Edgar B. Speer (above) safely passes the 500 yard safety zone around the motor vessel Roger Blough.
Lt. Gordon Gertiser, a marine inspector with U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie, inspects the engine room for possible damage aboard the motor vessel Roger Blough, May 30, 2016, in Lake Superior.


  1. The Philip Clark appears to be taking part of the load from the Roger Blough back to Duluth. Any idea why it is going back to Duluth?

  2. Rita from Georgia says:

    Let’s not come to too many conclusions too fast. There are lots of possibilities here. The Blough had been having steering problems(tug assist in many ports the last few weeks). There was dense fog and they had a dead ship tow to contend with. This is also an area where the shipping lane narrows into the upper St. Mary’s River. There are also factors we as the public are not aware of. The captain has been on the Blough since 2009 and I am sure knows the boat backward, forward and inside out. I support the captain and crew and everyone else involved in the salvage. I hope the damage is minimal and she is back out quickly. She is a great ship!

  3. Greg,
    In 1963 there was no GPS and most ships did not have depth finders.

    • Greg Hayden says:

      I do not know what GPS has to do with it? Being in a buoyed entrance channel does not require GPS. The ship I was onboard had forward and aft Fathometers, but they were useless in shallow water at speed due to the squat effect.

  4. Greg Hayden says:

    It is not unusual for Great Lakes ships to go aground. I doubt there are any ships that have not grounded? The distance be tween the bottom of the ships hull and the often dredged channels is small. A slight deviation off a usual course can end up like this. 1963 I was on a steam ship with an iron ore cargo that ran aground in the middle of the Toledo Ohio entry channel. We sat there for two days waiting for Lake Erie water, that had been blown East to Buffalo by the wind, to come back to Toledo.

    Greg Hayden
    Vista, CA USA

  5. Great info and photos, thanks! I was curious about how they form the safety zone. Is it set up with buoys?

  6. Tom from Mpls says:

    I have nothing but respect for those that sail. Here is the “but”. How does one make a mistake like this? Ran into the shoals while passing another ship? I hope the story turns out to be a little different than that. Best of luck to all involved.

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