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Freighter freed after running aground on Detroit's Belle Isle

The M/V Mark W. Barker became lodged near the shoreline of Belle Isle Park on the Detroit River on May 17, 2023. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

DETROIT — A bulk cargo ship was trapped for several hours Wednesday morning near the shoreline of Belle Isle Park, creating a spectacle for park goers who snapped photos and cast fishing lines in the shadow of the massive freighter. 


The 639-foot ship ran aground on the eastern shore of the island near the Dossin Great Lakes Museum just before 8 a.m. after it lost propulsion, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Commercial salvage ships helped free the vessel a few hours later, according to an update posted by the Coast Guard at 12:40 p.m. It was carrying a load of salt. 

Lt. Junior Grade Adeeb Ahmad said the M/V Mark W. Barker hit soft mud and sand. There is no damage to the island, he said, and no injuries to crew members on the cargo ship. 


The M/V Mark W. Barker became lodged near the shoreline of Belle Isle Park on the Detroit River on May 17, 2023. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

Ahmad said there is no concern of damage to the hull or pollution impacts. The Detroit River remained open to commercial and recreational boat traffic. Coast Guard investigators are assessing the situation and cause of the crash. 

“For something that is unfortunate, this is the best-case scenario,” Ahmad said. 

The Mark W. Barker is owned by the Interlake Steamship Company and built in 2022. Ahmad said it was headed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through the Great Lakes. It was designed to navigate tight river bends. 

Chrissy Kadleck, a spokeswoman for Interlake, said in a statement that the ship, carrying salt that was picked up in Cleveland, experienced “a loss of power and maneuverability.”

“The vessel turned to port unexpectedly and the captain dropped the anchor before the bow grounded on the soft bank of the channel,” the statement reads, reiterating that there were no injuries “nor does there appear to be any risk of pollution or damage to the vessel.”

man fishing, ship in the background
A fisherman casts his line into the Detroit River as a bulk cargo ship is trapped ashore on May 17, 2023. (BridgeDetroit photo by Malachi Barrett)

Working with the Coast Guard and with the assistance of a tug, “the vessel was able back away from the bank and get underway to make its way to the Belle Isle Anchorage where the crew will continue to assess the vessel and work to determine the cause of the incident,” the statement adds.

A witness, who asked not to be identified, said earlier Wednesday that they saw the ship turning in a narrow stretch of the Detroit River between Belle Isle and Canada. The freighter appeared to rest at nearly a 45-degree angle with its front facing the island park when it became stuck.

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