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Broken lift bridge that delayed ship’s grain delivery fixed

A malfunctioning lift bridge that prevented a large Canadian freighter from delivering its grain shipment was back in operation today.

The city was able to repair the bridge, which was experiencing problems in its electronic operating system, and open it this morning.

The Robert S. Pierson, a Canadian freighter nearly as long as two football fields, sat motionless against the western bank of the waterway while a couple of crewmen gazed quietly from an upper deck on Monday afternoon.

The broken lift bridge had left the Pierson waiting for three days to deliver its cargo of wheat grown in Ontario, giving the vessel’s owner, and the city, plenty of headaches.

The freighter arrived at the bridge at 6:30 p.m. Friday and was anchored nearby, less than a mile from its destination, Riverland Ag Corp.’s grain elevators on the other side of the lift bridge on Childs Street.

“It’s a very major headache,” Jim Siddall, vice president of operations for the ship’s owner, Lower Lakes Towing, said Monday. “It’s causing ripple effects for other ships.”

Lift bridge problems aren’t unusual, but three days to fix the problem is “a bit more on the rare and extreme side,” Siddall said.

The city had been dealing with an electrical failure in the bridge since Friday and was testing every component to locate the problem, Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said Monday.

“This is a mechanical failure,” he said. “These bridges have a lot of electronics to them.”

The issue was that one side of the bridge wasn’t getting an electronic feed, he said.

On Monday, Siddall was rescheduling other ships and said the company was considering delivering to a different destination because of the delay, but it’s far away and could be cost-prohibitive.

“Every day that ship’s not moving ... it’s not delivering other cargo,” he said.

The Pierson and its 18-member crew were scheduled to have made two wheat deliveries to the site by Monday: one load from Hamilton, Ont., and the other from Port Colborne, Ont.

Lower Lakes Towing operates all over the Great Lakes, and the Pierson is supposed to be in Lake Superior by Thursday, but it won’t make it.

Siddall said they was just hoping to get the bridge “fixed ASAP.”.

The city operates four lift bridges: at Ohio Street, Michigan Avenue, South Park Avenue and at the foot of Ferry Street. The Ohio Street bridge is raised about two times per week to accommodate ships, Stepniak said.