James Whalen raised

·2 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — At least four businesses are involved with the raising of the James Whalen tugboat that sank in the Kaministiquia River in May. Work began early Thursday morning under the direction of LH Cranes as Big Lake Diving and Marine divers, who were securing the rigging on the tug, were greeted with the arrival of the Toronto Dry Dock Coastal Titan, a heavy-lift Derrick barge.

Throughout the morning the rigging was secured and preparations for the recovery were set in place. As the tug rested on the rigging it began to list and take on more water rolling almost completely on its side. Air forced into its hull displaced the water enabling the tug to begin to right itself. Workers approached the operation on a pontoon vessel and climbed on top of the submerged tug to turn on a pump system. As the water was pumped from the tug, the heavy cranes on the barge began to lift it. Things were going smoothly until around 11:30 a.m. when the front rigging snapped and the 300-tonne tug plunged bow-first back into the river.

It was back to square one as dive crews returned to the depths to install new metal cable rigging. By 3:30 p.m., divers were working underwater.

Cory Halvorsen, the City of Thunder Bay’s manager of parks and open spaces, said the project to recover the tug has resulted in a sort of a specialized, marine construction project.

“As opposed to building something, we’re recovering it,” he said.

The cost of $800,000 to recover the tug will be mostly spread to local companies involved in the project.

“We were fortunate that we do have the local capacity (of companies) who were interested from day one to find a solution and assist,” Halvorsen said. “It turned into a formal contract that has a large dollar figure to it and these companies are doing the work that is required to recover the vessel.”

The tug was to be assessed for soundness, leaks or damage before being brought to the Paterson dock on the Kaministiquia River.

Halverson says, for the time being, they cannot store the tug at the transportation museum site because that requires dredging and permits. At this time of year, in-water work is restricted due to spawning cycles and the ecological welfare of the lake. He added that they’re going to have from now until next summer to work on a decision about what to do with it.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal