Pusher tug damaged oil & electrical lines, claims Michigan AG

Damage to underwater oil and electrical lines in the Straits of Mackinac, the waterway connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, which ultimately led to an insulation-fluid spill on April 1st, was caused by pusher tug Clyde S. Vanenkevort (IMO 9618484) dragging its anchor, Michigan attorney-general Bill Schuette claimed on April 17th.

AG Schuette said that he had notified Vanenkevort Tug and Barge that he was planning civil action against the company because of the damage in the Straits of Mackinac. He said that the vessel ignored markers in the channel and also ignored clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that made clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of Straits.

Two electric cables leaked 600 gallons of insulation fluid containing mineral oil and benzene as a result of the incident.

Two pipelines carrying crude oil and liquefied natural gas were dented but the integrity of the lines held.

Under Michigan law, causing such a leak is punishable by a civil fine of up to $25,000 a day of the discharge, as well as damages for harm to natural resources, attorney’s fees and court costs. Those responsible for the anchor deployment or maintenance also could face criminal charges or other legal liability.

The ruined power cables are owned by American Transmission Company. The US Coast Guard and other agencies reported no sheen or other evidence of pollution. The American Transmission Company was slated to deploy sonar scanning technology and a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to better assess damage to the affected utility cables this week, as soon as weather conditions no longer posed a danger.

2011-built, USA-flagged, 1,241 gt Clyde S. Vanenekevort is owned and managed by Vanenkevort Tug & Barge Inc of Escanaba, Michigan.