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VIDEO: Freighter freed after running aground in Detroit River near Belle Isle

Posted at 8:36 AM, May 17, 2023

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The United States Coast Guard Sector Detroit said a ship ran aground Wednesday morning in the Detroit River.

It happened on the Canadian side of Belle Isle around 8 a.m. The ship was headed from Detroit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when it ran aground near Belle Isle and had just left Detroit.

Photo courtesy: Angel Cancel

The Coast Guard said the 639-foot freighter ran soft aground, meaning it hit mud and soft ground and did not strike the island. Coast Guard officials said the incident was caused by an electronics malfunction.

The M/V Mark W. Barker is the newest ship from The Interlake Steamship Company and was launched just last year. It was the first U.S. Great Lakes ship built on the Great Lakes since 1983.

It’s used to transport raw materials for manufacturing in the Great Lakes region like salt, steel and diesel fuel. At the time of the incident, the ship was carrying about 21,000 metric tons of salt and 105,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

There were no threats to people or the environment, officials said. They said pollution discharge and hull damage were not reported.

The ship was refloated successfully around 12:10 p.m. Wednesday.

Dozens of Detroiters gathered at the riverfront to get a closer look at the massive ship.

"It’s amazing to be that close to the shore. It really is. I mean, we’ve seen a lot of ships in the last few years but never one like this," Kathy Bashaw said as she watched the U.S. Coast Guard work to free the freight.

Chopper 7 shows video from over the Detroit River Wednesday morning:

"We worked closely with all relevant parties to ensure the safety of our waterways and the prompt resolution of this incident," Lt. j.g. Adeeb Ahmad with Coast Guard Sector Detroit said in a statement. “The successful refloating of the Mark W. Barker highlights our commitment to maintaining the safety and continuity of our maritime transportation system.”

Don Bevier says he typically takes photos of the ships that pass through Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie and the Detroit River.

"I’ve been doing this since the 70s," Don Bevier said as he stood shore side. "I take pictures of the boats all the time and my daughter texted me this morning — she actually showed me your footage from Channel 7 — about the Barker being stuck."

While many of the onlookers at the river were self proclaimed "ship nerds," others say this was their first time learning about the freight carriers.

"I have never been this close to the waterfront. I’ve come down to Belle Isle every year ,but this event just brought me down here and I’m amazed at all the people and knowledge of the boat history," Detroiter Maezin Denson said.

Photo courtesy: Angel Cancel

Susan Tulupman says she rearranged her entire day to come see the ship in all its glory.

"This is a chance of a lifetime and a brand new ship. It’s not even 2 years old and I haven’t seen her yet because I’ve been busy. This doesn’t happen often where you can come and I mean, you can almost touch the ship. It missed the island by what, 4 feet," Tulupman said.

Tulupman says she first became interested in boats and watercraft after her dad began taking her out sailing. She says she's been on the waterways since she was 6 years old.

"We have lake ships. There’s no lake ships anywhere else in the world but here, and they’re completely different from ocean ships and I think they’re way cooler," Tulupman said.