Two large ships being unloaded at the Dundalk Marine Terminal in Baltimore shifted away from the berth where they were docked amid strong winds Wednesday night, snapping the lines tying them down and damaging a crane, according to officials at the port of Baltimore.
The roll-on, roll-off ships, containing heavy machinery, farm equipment and other vehicles, are owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, one of the port's largest roll-on, roll-off customers, said Richard Scher, a spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration.
"That type of cargo is, as the name suggests, cargo that can be rolled on and off a ship," Scher said. Unloading such ships requires a ramp connecting the ship directly to the pier, he said.
Scher said initial reports from the port indicated that the lines keeping the ships in place somehow "parted" sometime before 7:30 p.m., and they began shifting away from their berth. Only one of the ships came in contact with the crane, he said.
"I was told that when the lines parted, and the ship began to shift away from the pier, the ramp was obviously down because the ship was being worked and the ramp made contact with one of our cranes," Scher said.
He said he did not know how extensively the crane was damaged.
Scher said no one was injured. It took about an hour for the ships to be brought back under control and retied to their berths, he said.
Frits de Goede, a Ports America general manager at the Dundalk Marine Terminal, said he believed wind at the port had suddenly picked up amid the stormy weather Wednesday night and put tension on the lines.
"It must have really been a burst of wind coming through," he said.
He said tug boats responded quickly to begin guiding the ships back into their correct position.
Inna Getselis, a Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics spokeswoman, deferred comment to port officials late Wednesday, saying an investigation was under way.
Scher said the Coast Guard will be the lead investigating agency.
The incident is the second mishap at the port in the last six months.
In August, a collision between a Panama-owned tanker and a Curtis Bay coal pier took the pier out of service for nearly two months and injured a CSX Transportation employee. The Coast Guard is still investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, CSX, the pier owner, has filed documents in U.S. District Court claiming vessel owner Trio Happiness S.A. was operating an "unseaworthy, unportworthy and unfit" vessel, and that the collision caused more than $22 million in damages. A status report is due from both sides by Jan. 4.