UPDATE – Empress of the North’s Long History of Trouble

John Konrad
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May 14, 2007

This is actually the 4th grounding of the vessel “Empress of the Sea”. By reviewing the USCG incident reports along with some google powered research we were able to Empress of the North's Lifeboatsfind at least three groundings in addition to today’s incident.

March 24th, 2006: Multnomah County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Schults’s eyewitness reoprt stated “Wind and choppy water may have sent the vessel off course.” The result was a firm grounding on a sand bar at the edge of the Columbia River near Portland, OR. Reported by the AP

Nov 27th 2003: During the evening on a voyage up the Columbia River the vessel developed steering problems and ran aground 80 miles NW of Portland. Two crew and a passenger suffered minor injuries.

Oct. 24, 2003, while transiting a lock on the Snake River the vessel grounded with no reported injuries.

2007 has been a particularly bad year for the ship after 23 passengers took ill and the ship subsequently failed its CDC health inspection. That incident is still under investigation.

Empress of the North

The 2003 grounding’s story is really in the recovery operations:

The Empress of the North lost a lot of weight on March 25, but the stubborn sternwheeler refused to budge from her perch on a Columbia River sandbar. Rescuers had a simple plan to save the 360-foot ship, which grounded near Washougal, Wash., on the morning of March 24. They would drain most of the ship’s diesel fuel, then hope the reduced weight and a rising afternoon tide would lift the Empress enough to maneuver downstream. It took crews hours longer than they thought to drain more than 20,000 gallons of diesel, partly because of a mechanical problem. Still, the Empress stayed stuck, even when three tugboats teamed up to yank and pivot the ship off its perch. Rescuers may try to come up with a new plan or may give the tugs another try. Crews are being careful not to injure any workers or spill any of the thousands of gallons of fuel left on the ship. None of the diesel taken off the ship spilled. Divers and inspectors have found no damage to the boat, but they have not been able to assess the portion of the hull sitting on the sand, gravel and rock bar. OregonLive

I am signing off the story for now please check 2nd Mate Christine Klimkowski’s NowPublic page as well as my original NowPublic post for further updates.

Continued coverage of this incident: LINK

John A. Konrad, Master Mariner

John Konrad is a USCG licensed Master Mariner of Unlimited Tonnage currently working as Chief Mate aboard a 835′ ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Since graduating from SUNY Maritime College he has sailed in 4 of the worlds oceans and reports from his ship via satellite.

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