Ship carrying more than 400 tonnes of heavy oil without power and drifting toward B.C. coast

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      Update: Haida Nation issues 5 p.m. update on Russian ship adrift off the coast of Haida Gwaii

      A large ship carrying bunker fuel and diesel is adrift off the British Columbia coast. It is projected to reach Haida Gwaii before nightfall.

      The Haida Nation has declared the situation an emergency and warned that the Canadian Coast Guard and other emergency responders are unlikely to intercept the vessel before it strikes land.

      The ship was early in a journey from Everett, Washington, to Russia when it lost power and began to drift.

      The 135-metre bulk carrier is holding 500 metric tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 tonnes of diesel, according to a media release issued by the Haida Nation. The ship is registered to Russia and called the Simushir.

      "The Haida Nation’s worst fear is coming true,” said Haida Nation kil tlaats ’gaa president Peter Lantin quoted in the release. “Our priority is to minimize the impact on our homeland and get our people on-site to start dealing with the grounding. We’ll deal with the politics of the situation later."

      That document states that the Simishir lost power "in the early morning" and that the Haida Nation was contacted by by the coast guard at 7:30 a.m.

      According to messages posted on Twitter by Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, there are no tugboats in the area large enough to intercept the drifting cargo ship. The nearest vessels that could help prevent the Simushir from striking land will not be able to reach it until the morning of October 18.

      Chandra Herbert wrote that the provincial government predicts that unless circumstances change, the ship is expected to hit land around 10 p.m. this evening (October 17).

      Update: The provincial government has issued a media release stating that it is working with federal counterparts to respond to the incident.

      “Late last night [October 16], the Canadian Coast Guard was notified that a general cargo vessel, the Simushir, had lost engine power 12 nautical miles NorthWest of Gowgaia Bay, off Moresby Island," its stated there. "Once alerted of the ship being adrift, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) activated its emergency protocols to connect all partners involved and ensure a coordinated response."

      The release adds that EMBC is working with the coast guard plus the Canadian Armed Forces. It also notes that it is federal agencies that are leading repsonse efforts while the province plays a supporting role.

      “A B.C. Incident Management Team has been activated, which includes Emergency Environmental Response Officers (EEROs) and other technical specialists," the release continues. "The Province is also contacting its partners in the BC Pacific States Oil Spill Task Force both to notify them of the risk and to ask them to provide mutual aid as needed based on the outcome of efforts to restore power to the vessel.”

       

      Earlier in the day, the Globe and Mail reports that a coast guard helicopter was dispatched to the Simushir to evacuate at least one crew member who was injured. Another 11 members of the crew are still on board the ship.

      According to Environment Canada, bunker fuel is a heavy oil that mainly contains aliphatic, aromatic, and cycloalkane hydrocarbons. It can also include asphaltenes and smaller amounts of sulphur, nitrogen and/or oxygen. It is a fuel commonly used by large shipping vessels.

      The Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, an industry research and discussion website, states that bunker fuel as “among the lowest-level diesel fuel distillates”. It’s described there as a “relatively thick, dirty fuel that builds deposits in refinery pipes and equipment”.

      At the time of writing the Government of Canada had issued a weather warning for the Haida Gwaii region. "'Storm' force winds of 48 to 63 knots are occurring or expected to occur in this marine area,” it reads.

      The Exxon Valdez spilled 35,000 metric tonnes of oil when it ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989.

      Comments

      19 Comments

      MarkFornataro

      Oct 17, 2014 at 1:56pm

      Hopefully this will be the final nail in the coffin for any plans of more oil tanker traffic on our coast.

      cosmicsync

      Oct 17, 2014 at 2:47pm

      Can you provide more detail on the timing Travis? When did the ship lose power? Was an opportunity to get a tug to the vessel missed, or was that never an option?

      cosmicsync

      Oct 17, 2014 at 3:14pm

      My apologies Travis. I didn't read closely enough and now see that you answered my question about when the ship lost power in your story. I don't know whether there would have been enough time to get a tug given events apparently unfolded in the early morning hours.

      Travis Lupick

      Oct 17, 2014 at 3:19pm

      @cosmicsync, we often write breaking news stories live, publishing them after only a couple of sentences are written and then adding to them as new information becomes available. This story went through as many as maybe 15 different versions. It's easily possible your first comment was posted in response to an early version that didn't include many details.

      Mark Murphy

      Oct 17, 2014 at 4:06pm

      Oil and water don't mix.

      Giddy Up

      Oct 17, 2014 at 5:10pm

      Residents of Haida Gwai - get out there in your canoes and start pushing!

      James Blatchford

      Oct 17, 2014 at 5:20pm

      Quick! Break out the Enbridge maps...buy us some time!

      Captain Christy

      Andrew Allan

      Oct 17, 2014 at 6:16pm

      I can't believe we don't have tug escort capacity within 12 hours reach of Haida Gwaii...? Where is Christy Clarke in all this with her many assurances about LNG tanker safety? Where is Stephen Harper and his world class tanker safety response measures?

      The people of BC are being lied to and have been for a long time. We have almost zero capacity to safely manage all these rip and ship raw export plans for our coastline :(

      Mike Mcindoe

      Oct 17, 2014 at 7:46pm

      this is also symptomatic of the downgrading of the Coast Guard and navy presence on our west coast. There is too much political posturing and not enough protection.

      Mike Mcindoe

      Oct 17, 2014 at 7:46pm

      this is also symptomatic of the downgrading of the Coast Guard and navy presence on our west coast. There is too much political posturing and not enough protection.