Port captain talks about freeing grounded cargo ship

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A grounded 751-foot cargo ship was moved out of sand and back into open water Friday morning. Strong winds blew through Tuesday night and left the Ornak stranded in the shallows of the Virginia Beach shoreline.

A crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat - Medium from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Va., maintains a safety zone around the 751-foot bulk carrier Ornak, Friday, April 18, 2014. The ship was refloated Friday morning and moved to Lynnhaven anchorage for inspections.
A crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat – Medium from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Va., maintains a safety zone around the 751-foot bulk carrier Ornak, Friday, April 18, 2014. The ship was refloated Friday morning and moved to Lynnhaven anchorage for inspections

WAVY.com talked to the Coast Guard’s John Little, Captain of the Port of Hampton Roads, who oversaw the efforts to free the 751-foot ship. He said after about two hours of prep work, the vessel was tugged into deeper water within minutes. Mother nature and the marine salvage plan came together to make the process happen, but on Tuesday, the Coast Guard had their hands full.

“There were plenty of ships in the Lynnhaven Anchorage that were secure on the anchor until this enormously strong front came through with winds clocked at over 70 mile an hour gusts,” Little said. “It was really the tow vessels and the Herculean efforts by the pilots to get to many of these ships to get quickly aboard while the ships were lighting off their engines to keep more ships from grounding.”

Captain Little said it’s not often a ship of the Ornak’s size runs aground, but he remembers the last time it did in 2009: “The

A crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat - Medium from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Va., maintains a safety zone around the 751-foot bulk carrier Ornak, Friday, April 18, 2014. The ship was refloated Friday morning and moved to Lynnhaven anchorage for inspections.
A crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat – Medium from Coast Guard Station Little Creek, Va., maintains a safety zone around the 751-foot bulk carrier Ornak, Friday, April 18, 2014. The ship was refloated Friday morning and moved to Lynnhaven anchorage for inspections.

November nor’easter had real significant winds offshore, and it caused a 570-foot container barge to break its tow and drift down onto the beach at Sandbridge.”

Litle said when something like that happens, immediate concerns are injuries to people on board, damage that could have been caused, and pollution to the environment around.

With the situation involving the Ornak, Little said there’s no evidence of that. But as for the damages to nearby businesses nearby, one has already reported that could be the case. Little said an investigation into that claim is going on right now.

As of now, the Ornak is back at the Lynnhaven Anchorage undergoing testing of her engines and machinery. Captain Little has also asked for an underwater survey to be conducted to make sure she’s safe to enter port and load the grain she came to pick up. They are waiting on divers to come out and do that.

Once the ship is deemed safe, the Coast Guard will remove the captain of the port restrictions and let the Ornak continue on it’s way to the Purdue facility at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal.

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