Some Great Lakes ships are safe from storms and ice in their harbors, being overhauled for the upcoming shipping season. The Coast Guard says the work is being done safely, but warns that many hazards are close by.
One of the ships moored in Milwaukee is the Burns Harbor, a 1,000-foot-long cargo vessel built in Sturgeon Bay 35 years ago. Below deck, a lot of work crews are active making repairs.
This week, the Coast Guard led small groups of Milwaukee police and firefighters through an annual tour of the vessel, to tell the emergency responders about the potential dangers on board. Coast Guard Senior Investigating Officer Don Snider points to the ceiling in the engine room. “Your exhaust system, overhead piping: there's just hazards left and right down here.”
Snider says workers in the ballast area take many precautions.
Coast Guard Commander Max Moser says overall, ship repair work and cargo hauling are safe, but challenging.
“[Ships] run with less people on board,” Moser said. “Technology is great for replacing people, but when you have a ship this size carrying cargo that may be hazardous or may be easily caught fire, or they have a fire in an engine room, it can become a hazardous time, in port or at sea.”
Moser says if Great Lakes ships start carrying crude oil, as some want, the Coast Guard would try to make sure the vessels are operating safely.