WATCH: A Tanker is Coming and the Casco Bay Bridge Won’t Open
Did you know that our Portland harbor is the second-largest tonnage seaport in New England and the second-largest oil port on the East Coast? We have a lot of BIG ships that enter our harbor. These tankers are 550 feet long and weigh 23,000 TONS. That's a lot of momentum, so, it's NOT that easy to just hit the breaks and stop if you need to.
What Happens If the Casco Bay Bridge Gets Stuck and a Ship is Coming Through?
So. What happens if the tanker is headed under the Casco Bay Bridge and the bridge won't open? Maybe you've been stuck on the bridge before. Believe me, it's WAY more disconcerting if you're piloting a tanker and the bridge gets stuck!.
That's where Portland's fantastic tugboats come in. The tugs meet the tankers about 3 miles out and guide them in. These people are pros and ready for anything. If they are approaching the Casco Bay Bridge and it gets stuck (and it happens), then these men and women spring into action. Someone jumps from the tugboat over to the tanker and they tie a line together. Then they use the tugboat's 6,000 horsepower engines to try and slow down and guide the tanker. Keep in mind the tankers are 100 times heavier than the tugs. Talk about nerve-racking!
A tanker has hit the bridge before. This was back in 1996, with the old Million Dollar Bridge. That bridge had wooden fenders, and when the pilot of the Julie N turned port instead of starboard, the ship hit the wooden fenders, causing a 33-foot tear in the hull. The tear caused 168,000 gallons of oil to spill into Casco Bay. The spill cost 46 MILLION dollars to clean up. The Casco Bay Bridge opened in 1997 with new $7 million dollar state-of-the-art fenders. It's been smooth sailing since.
Check out this video of a tanker coming into Portland Harbor. The tugboat gets the word that the Casco Bay Bridge isn't opening and things escalate quickly!
Kudos to the crew at McAllister Towing for helping to make Portland one of the safest and greatest harbors in the world!