The U.S. Coast Guard continues to work on a tugboat that's partially underwater in the Duluth Harbor to remove fuel and water from the vessel.
The retired U.S. Army Corps tugboat, named Lake Superior, "was listing over the weekend but was supported by ice," Joseph McGinnis, the waterways management branch chief with the Coast Guard, told Bring Me The News on Monday.
Related [March 21]: Coast Guard investigating sinking tugboat on Lake Superior in Duluth
But by Monday morning, the stern of the vessel sunk because the ice started melting, McGinnis said. The U.S. Coast Guard learned of the issue at about 9 a.m. Monday and responded to the tugboat's slip, off Railroad Street near Pier B and the Compass Minerals dock, to mitigate any potential environmental hazards.
It's still not clear what caused the tugboat to start taking on water, with McGinnis telling Bring Me The News on Wednesday the hope is that question will be answered when the vessel is lifted out of the water.
Contractors were headed to the tugboat on Wednesday to "perform lightering and dewater operations," McGinnis said, with the goal being to remove any fuel, lube oil and water in the vessel. Then, it will be up to the owner of the tugboat, Billington Contracting, to determine what to do from there.
The U.S. Coast Guard says it wants to ensure the tugboat will not pose a threat to the waterway or the environment.
"Being that the vessel is in a slip, there is no threat to the waterway and does not present a hazard to other vessels. As for safety of the environment, the Coast Guard is monitoring the vessel for any pollution. As soon as all potential pollutants, such as the diesel fuel, lube oil, etc., are removed from the vessel, the Coast Guard will not be involved with the vessel since there will be no threat to the environment," McGinnis said.
The Coast Guard pollution responders continue to monitor the vessel and are staying in touch with the contractors at the scene.
McGinnis encourages members of the public to call 218-725-3800 or 906-635-3233 if they see a vessel sinking or notice "any large sheens of oil" in the water.
Lake Superior's storied history
The tugboat has worn many hats since it was built in 1943 for the U.S. Army and named Maj. Emil H. Block, according to the website Great Lakes Tugs and Workboats.
She worked in the South Pacific moving barges and sank in 1950, the Star Tribune said. The vessel was fixed up and then transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1950 and renamed Lake Superior, Great Lakes Tugs and Workboats says.
The tug was retired from service in about 1995 and was donated to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which used it as a floating museum, the website said. A private owner —Billington Contracting of Duluth — bought the vessel in 2007.
The live-aboard, 114-foot steel hull tug was listed previously listed for sale, according to an old ad that touted the vessel's stainless galley, oak and mahogany wood, brass fixtures and ceramic tile floors.
The Lake Superior isn't the first former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tugboat to take on water in Duluth. The Essayons, which was built in 1908, sank to the bottom of its slip on Lake Superior on March 24, 2009, according to media reports. A local businessman had owned the tug since 1994 and was hoping to convert it into a bed and breakfast.
The engine of the Essayons is now on display at the Duluth Marine Museum in Canal Park.