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Horizon Fairbanks breaks mooring lines in Bellingham

A Horizon Lines barge on the Bellingham waterfront broke free after cleats holding the moorage lines broke in high winds Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014.
A Horizon Lines barge on the Bellingham waterfront broke free after cleats holding the moorage lines broke in high winds Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The Horizon Fairbanks moored at Bellingham Shipping Terminal broke free during high winds Tuesday morning, Dec. 9.

Gusts reaching up to 67 mph around 9 a.m. snapped bow lines and a cleat from the terminal and swung the more than 600-foot ship from its usual mooring place.

A nearby worker said it sounded like rifle shots as a cleat broke off and the bow lines went slack.

No one was aboard and no one was injured as the ship drifted more than 90 degrees, pivoting where the stern was still attached to the dock. The bow caught on sediment in a shallow part of the Whatcom Waterway channel, preventing it from swinging any further.

Shortly after noon, two tugboats were able to move the steel ship back in place, and crews tied it up to undamaged portions of the pier.

“Lines that broke are being replaced, in some cases with wire rope,” Neil Clement, Port of Bellingham’s emergency management and security officer, wrote in an email.

Horizon Lines leases the space from the Port of Bellingham for about $1,000 a day; when active, the C6 Class container ship hauled containers to Alaska.

The ship has been moored at the terminal since 2007, Clement said. Before that, the ship stayed in Bellingham on a seasonal basis.

No fuel was on board, and the ship wasn’t damaged, Clement said.

The ship was built in Mississippi in 1973 and is listed at roughly 21,000 tons. Because of its low fuel economy, Horizon Lines keeps it idle. A Horizon spokesperson did not return a phone call Monday afternoon to answer whether or not the ship is due to be scrapped.

During a future cleanup phase for the Whatcom Waterway, the Department of Ecology will check to see if any potential sediment damage needs to be addressed, said Krista Kenner, an Ecology spokesperson.

“At this point we don’t have any big concerns,” Kenner said. “There is a pretty thick natural cap there.”

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