High school rowing teams zipped up and down the Buffalo River late Monday afternoon, unfazed by the inoperable Ohio Street Lift Bridge.
Not so the Robert S. Pierson, a Canadian freighter nearly as long as two football fields. It sat motionless against the western bank of the waterway while a couple crewmen gazed quietly from an upper deck.
The broken lift bridge has 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 has been anchored nearby ever since, 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," said Jim Siddall, vice president of operations for the ship's owner, Lower Lakes Towing. "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 has been dealing with an electrical failure in the bridge since Friday and is testing every component to locate the problem, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.
"We're hoping to have it all worked out by today," Stepniak said Monday, but the city had not declared the problem resolved by the end of the day.
"This is a mechanical failure," he said. "These bridges have a lot of electronics to them."
The issue is that one side of the bridge wasn't getting an electronic feed to it, he said.
On Monday, Siddall was rescheduling other ships and said the company is 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 now: 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.
"We're just hoping to get it fixed ASAP," Siddall said.
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.
Copyright 2013 - The Buffalo News, N.Y.