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Ships Collide on Welland Canal; Investigation Underway

It was a wild sight in the Welland Canal on Saturday as viewers captured a massive collision between two commercial vessels.

Onlooker Alex Stewart was visiting the canal for the first time when two large vessels seemingly drifted into each other's lane and were unable to reverse course in time. The 43-kilometre waterway connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and sees a steady stream of commercial boat traffic, but collisions are not common despite it being one of Canada's busiest commercial waterways.

“I would have never thought I’d see that,” he said in a Facebook interview with The Tribune.

Stewart was walking with a friend when they saw McKeil Marine’s Florence Spirit drift into the path of dship Carriers’ MV Alanis. The two vessels struck each other on their starboard sides near the anchor port, with the MV Alanis suffering the greater damage due to it sitting lower in the water.

In Stewart’s video, you can hear an alarm sounding before the impact, but its unclear how much time either vessel had to correct their course leading up to the collision.

“The crash was loud … but coming from a racing background it wasn’t that loud,” he said.

In the video, the two vessels then stop before the ocean-going vessel MV Alanis is pushed toward the east bank of the canal and the Florence Spirit heads toward the west bank. Both were docked shortly thereafter for repairs.

Jean Aubry-Morin, the vice president of external relations for the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp, said the collision took place at 3:55 p.m. south of Port Robinson and is now under investigation. Because the collision involved two vessels passing each other, Transport Canada officials will be called in to investigate.

The reason behind why the boats collided on the starboard side, where normally they would be passing on the port side, will hopefully be explained by the investigation. “Normally, they would be passing port side to port side,” Aubry-Morin said. Downbound ships are heading to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie, while upbound vessels are heading to Lake Erie from Lake Ontario.

Aubry-Morin said the Florence Spirit was carrying a load of coal and downbound for Quebec.

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