After an 88-hour wait, a city-owned lift bridge finally opened Tuesday morning and a large Canadian freighter was able to pass through and deliver tons of grain.
“It happens,” said Jim Siddall, vice president of operations for Lower Lakes Towing, which owns the freighter. But waits at bridges “are pretty rare to be that long,” he said.
The Robert S. Pierson and its load of 11,000 tons of Canadian-grown wheat arrived in the Buffalo River at 6:30 p.m. Friday. It expected to reach the Riverland Ag Corp.’s grain elevator on Childs Street so it could unload overnight and be on the way to get its next shipment before breakfast on Saturday.
But the Ohio Street lift bridge had an electronic malfunction, leaving the Pierson unable to reach its destination, only a short distance away.
While the freighter was tied up on the river’s western banks, the city worked to fix the bridge, and it opened at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said Tuesday afternoon that he expected the bridge to be lowered and re-opened to traffic later that evening, after the boat had left and the city completed diagnostic work.
Other shipping companies have encountered long delays at various lift bridges, and “it was our turn to take a hit on those,” Siddall said on Tuesday.
The process of unloading the wheat from the freighter to the grain elevator usually takes around 10 hours, at a rate of about one ton per hour.
The Pierson’s haul isn’t as large as some loads that bigger vessels, and bigger rivers, can handle, Siddall said. A large load is 28,000 tons.
The ship and its 18-member crew was headed for a voyage of less than five hours to Port Colborne, Ont., for another grain shipment, and will return to Buffalo for another delivery.
The city operates four lift bridges: Ohio Street, South Park Avenue, Michigan Street and Ferry Street.