updated 2/25/2004 3:42:36 PM ET 2004-02-25T20:42:36

The lower Mississippi River was partly reopened to heavy ships Wednesday after salvage crews moved a sunken vessel that had been blocking the river’s only deep opening into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard closely monitored all river traffic and was working with river pilots to clear the backlog of ships. Fifty-two ships were waiting to enter the Gulf of Mexico, and 51 others were sitting in the gulf waiting to move upriver.

The 178-foot supply boat Lee III sank in the river’s main shipping channel Saturday after colliding with a container ship. Weather and water conditions delayed attempts to move the sunken boat. Its five crew members are presumed drowned.

The body of one of the crew was found earlier and identified as Lawrence Glass, 65, of Mobile, Ala. The bodies of two other crewmen were found but not recovered because currents forced divers out of the water. Two others remained missing.

Officials with the Port of New Orleans predicted it would take two to three days to clear the logjam for each day the river was closed. Some smaller ships were able to use a shallow waterway nearby, but large oceangoing ships have been held up by the blocked channel.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line’s Grandeur of the Seas was still stuck in New Orleans. The company said it would give all the 2,000 passengers a full refund and a discount on future cruises.

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