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WATCH: 'Rare' ship collision in Ontario's Welland Canal, investigation underway

Monday, July 13th 2020, 1:24 pm - The 'rare' accident happened mid-afternoon Saturday, and both ships sustained damage. No injuries or environmental impact reported.

An investigation is now underway following Saturday's collision of two cargo ships attempting to pass through the Welland Canal in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula.

The canal, which connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie, occurred at about 4 p.m. near Port Robinson, Jean Aubry-Morin, a spokesperson with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. told CBC News. He labelled 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," said Aubry-Morin.

Welland Canal collision Jeremy Barton The Alanis and Florence Spirit ships hit head-on in a "rare" accident Saturday afternoon. Photo: Jeremy Barton.

Alanis was heading up the canal toward Duluth, Minn., with a load of wind turbine parts, while the Florence Spirit was heading to Quebec with a shipment of coal, Aubry-Morin said, noting no one was injured, and there was no fuel spill or other environmental impact.

Both vessels are docked at safe locations, where they will go through complete inspections. Investigators are now attempting to figure out 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.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. official noted vessels pass in that part of the canal hundreds of times each shipping season, particularly at the location where the two ships crashed. Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) will also be investigating.

A news release from the TSB confirmed the deployment of investigators to the site to "gather information and assess the occurrence."

Welland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Fire Chief Adam Eckhart said on Twitter it was not called to the incident.

The Welland Canal is a 43-kilometre stretch that connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario from Port Colborne to St. Catharines' Port Weller. It is a key throughway for shipping on the Great Lakes.

Thumbnail image credit: Jeremy Barton.

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