Stranded Whale Watching Tour Snagged Offshore LNG Terminal Buoy

Mike Schuler
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July 31, 2014

An illustration of Excelerate’s Gateway terminal buoy and connections.

Some new information has revealed what caused a 3-hour whale watching tour to become stranded overnight off Boston, Massachusetts earlier this week.

As gCaptain reported, the 83-foot Boston Harbor Cruises vessel Cetacea was carrying 163 people when it became disabled about 13 miles east of Nahant on Monday at about 4:30 p.m. after the boat’s propeller became entangled.

Initial attempts by divers to clear the line from the propeller were unsuccessful and as night fell, a night operation to transfer the passengers was deemed unsafe, leaving the passengers and crew stranded overnight. The Cetacea was eventually freed the following morning and limped back into Boston Harbor Tuesday, about 18 hours from its departure.

An update from the U.S. Coast Guard late Wednesday revealed that despite initial reports that a lobster pot line was caught in the propeller, further analysis revealed that it was actually buoy cable from the Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port that became entangled after the Cetacea entered a restricted area. The Coast Guard said that the removal of the cable required additional dive resources and heavy duty equipment, which apparently took some time.

At about 5:20 a.m. Tuesday, divers aboard the vessels Bunker Hill and Scarlett Isabella freed the cable from the Cetacea’s propeller and the Coast Guard Cutter Tybee escorted the vessel to Boston. All passengers safely disembarked the vessel near 8 a.m., at Long Warf.

Northeast Gateway is an offshore LNG receiving terminal owned by Excelerate Energy. The design consists of a dual submerged turret-loading buoy system and a 16-mile pipeline connecting to the regional HubLine pipeline stretching across Massachusetts Bay. Since opening in 2008 at the peak of natural gas prices, the Northeast Gateway terminal has seen a drastic decline in usage, according to a report from the Boston Globe.

Ironically, Boston Harbor Cruises, which operates the Cetacea, is also under contract with the Northeast Gateway Project to provide vessel support services for the offshore terminal, although it seems business has been slow recently. 

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

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