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Giant freighter docks at Ogden Point for repairs, draws crowds

GSL Eleni was escorted into Victoria on Sunday after losing its steering functions off the coast of Tofino.
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The container ship GSL Eleni is docked at Ogden Point after being towed in from Tofino with a faulty rudder. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A massive cargo ship, crippled from the loss of its rudder, is tied at Ogden Point — and drawing crowds.

The 300-metre-long GSL Eleni was escorted into Victoria on Sunday after losing its steering functions off the coast of Tofino. Six tugs guided the massive ship laden with containers into Juan de Fuca Strait and the entrance of Victoria Harbour, where it was manoeuvred into Pier B.

As long as three-and-a-half football fields and 43 metres wide, the Liberian-flagged ship drew steady traffic and hundreds of onlookers who rarely get to see cargo ships up close. The ship, stacked six deep with containers on its deck and in the holds, blotted out the Sooke Hills from Dallas Road.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said the GSL Eleni lost its steering functions over the weekend and had to be carefully guided into the nearest deep-water port.

“So you can imagine the difficulty it must have had to get here safely,” said Robertson. “The ship’s rudder was stuck hard to port and now the ship’s agent and owners will determine how to fix the problem.”

Robertson estimated the GSL Eleni could be tied here for up to four days, possibly longer.

It depends on the complexity of the repair, he said.

The GSL Eleni is sharing Ogden Point with the Lafarge cement barge, which ran aground off the sewage treatment plant in Esquimalt during a December storm. Repairs to that vessel are ongoing.

Despite its striking size, Robertson said the cargo ship isn’t the largest to dock here. Some of the larger cruise ships reach 340 metres in length and are higher, he said.

The GSL Eleni’s arrival at Ogden Point comes a year nearly to the day after another cargo vessel needed an emergency haven.

On Jan. 2, 2022, the 304-metre-long, 40-metre-wide SM Busan, stacked high with shipping containers, docked at Ogden Point after encountering mechanical problems on the Pacific Ocean.

While travelling from Portland, Oregon. to South Korea, the SM Busan lost full power on Christmas Eve and had been drifting for two days before tug boats escorted the vessel to Constance Bank and then Ogden Point after high winds died down.

Robertson said the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority receives “nominal” mooring fees for ships doing mechanical repairs here, but did not reveal the value. “We are grateful that we are able to help get these ships repaired and on their way again,” he said.

The GSL Eleni was previously at the Port of Vancouver and was en route to its home port in Asia when it ran into trouble.

There is no indication of what cargo the massive ship is carrying in containers on its deck and holds, but the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said goods on board are approved according to International Marine Organization and Transport Canada regulations. Robertson said adhering to those regulations was required before GSL Eleni’s arrival in Victoria.

According to myshiptracking.com, the GSL Eleni left Busan, South Korea, on Nov. 25 for Yokohama, Japan. It arrived in Vancouver on Dec. 15 and left there on Dec. 28.

The ship, built in 2004, has been a frequent visitor to ­Canada’s west coast, delivering cargo at Prince Rupert seven times during 2022 and Vancouver five times. Since it was built, the ship has had several of names, including ER Shenzhen, Cosco Long Beach and MSC Ningbo.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

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