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Commercial ship calls off St. Joseph Harbor delivery

SAINT JOSEPH, Mich. - A commercial ship that’s been trying to get into the St. Joseph Harbor for 36 hours finally called it quits Thursday afternoon.

The Manistee, carrying more than ten thousand tons of road salt, was set to drop its load at Dock 63 in St. Joseph. The ship was waited to enter the harbor from 3:00 a.m. Wednesday till 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
The captain decided currents on the river were too strong to safely navigate the channel. “Anytime after November 15th (there’s more of a) risk operating those vessels,” said Larry LaValley, Harbormaster of the St. Joseph Harbor.
It’s a disappointment for LaValley. A harbor closure and a forced late shipping season mean it’s been difficult bringing any ships into the harbor at all. Only two commercial boats have made deliveries since the harbor re-opened.
When emergency dredging was completed by the Army Corps of Engineers to re-open the channel, dock owners hoped eight or nine boats would be making deliveries.
The difficulty for boats like the Manistee pulled has been either wind or strong currents. “When they come in and that current catches them. (If) they don’t have adequate speed, it’s going to catch and push the bow to the other side of the river,” said LaValley.
Nearly perfect conditions are needed to navigate a 100-foot opening at the railroad bridge, and a 130-foot opening at the Blossomtime Bridge. The Manistee is 70-feet wide leaving little room for error.
Dock 63 will lose this shipment of salt to a dock in Muskegon, MI. It could mean problems for Michiana’s road salt supply. “If it returns to winter (conditions) we could see a shortage of road salt,” said LaValley. “If the weather stays the way it has been, we might not have a problem.”
 LaValley does not believe there will be any other ships attempting to enter the channel till spring.

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