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Containership Malfunction Causes Commotion in Charleston Harbor

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 4357
June 6, 2024

Charleston’s Cooper River was the scene of a dramatic incident on Wednesday, as a malfunctioning container ship, the Liberia-flagged MSC Michigan VII, caused the closure of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the evacuation of Fort Moultrie Beach.

The 304-meter-long ship was outbound when it experienced problems with the systems controlling its propulsion, causing the vessel to unexpectedly increase speed and not respond to commands.

Local law enforcement took immediate action to halt vehicle traffic and evacuate beachgoers.

The ship’s troubles began after its departure from the North Charleston Container Terminal at around 11:46 a.m.

Officials said the ship’s engines, which were set to “dead slow speed”, started increasing speed without warning and failed to respond to commands. Charleston Harbor Pilots, noting the vessel’s speed doubling to 14 knots (16 miles per hour), called for assistance from nearby tugboats. However, the ship’s speed prevented the tugboats from reaching it.

The pilot, master, and crew, recognizing that dropping anchors would be ineffective, opted to continue navigating through the harbor and alerted authorities to the situation.

The vessel has since been safely escorted out of Charleston Harbor and was anchored 8.5 miles offshore.

There were reports of damage along the vessel’s route, believed to be caused by its wake. Inspections are currently underway throughout the port to assess this. Two recreational boaters reportedly suffered injuries and were assisted by local EMS personnel before being transported to a nearby hospital.

“I would like to thank our South Carolina state and local Charleston partners for their prompt response and assistance in clearing vessel traffic in the ship channel and halting vehicle traffic on the Ravenel Bridge,” said Cmdr. Randy Preston, Coast Guard Sector Charleston deputy commander. “I also want to recognize the Charleston Harbor Pilots for their exceptional coordination and the pilot’s efforts in recognizing the adverse situation and steering the ship through the harbor to open water without major incident. This was truly a team effort.”

Federal aids to navigation in the area are being assessed for any discrepancies as a result of the incident, which is currently under investigation.

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