Cargo ship (accidentally) reels pickup truck into harbor

A pickup truck secured by its hitch to a cargo ship seems like a bad idea under any circumstance, but we are not experts in these matters.

And neither was the crew aboard the MSC Ilona after they ended up reeling in a pickup truck around 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Port of Baltimore, dragging the vehicle from land to sea in a matter of minutes - with the driver still inside.


Luckily, the driver was able to escape - jumping out before the truck hit the water, said First Sgt. Glend McGuire, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority police.

McGuire explained that a private shipping company was helping the Ilona prepare for departure from Berth 4 at Seagirt Marine Terminal.

Several pickup trucks were untethering the ship's lines from large pillars, called bollards, where it was moored.

"The procedure is…they have large ropes that come off the ships – and they throw those onto land. They are hooked up to pickup trucks," McGuire said, breaking it down into non-expert terms. The trucks tether the lines on the dock, he said, and multiple pickup trucks do this at the same time. The process happens in reverse when a ship is ready to leave.

On Saturday, as the Ilona was ready to head out to sea, there was a miscommunication and the crew on board the ship thought all of the trucks had released their lines -- but one was still connected.

"He was in the process of doing it," McGuire said. "So [the ship] started pulling the pickup truck toward the water. The driver was still in the pickup truck."

However, being an expert on survival, the driver quickly exited the moving truck. The ship's motor continued to reel in the ropes, ending up with half of the truck submerged in the harbor. McGuire said with help from the Coast Guard the pickup truck was removed from the water early Sunday.

The driver sustained a minor injury to his leg and was taken to Hopkins Bayview Medical Center as a precaution.


"Don't try it at home. It takes a professional," McGuire said, musing that it could have been much worse for everyone involved.