The U.S. tugboat Barbara Foss averted a disastrous spill of 450 tonnes of bunker oil and diesel off the environmentally sensitive British Columbia coast over the weekend, towing the disabled Russian freighter Simushir to port in nearby Prince Rupert.
“At this point, the ship is riding well behind the tug, and the weather and sea conditions are not posing concerns,” Gary Faber, Senior Vice-President of Foss Maritime, reported Sunday evening. “We expect a steady and uneventful voyage to Prince Rupert.”
A Canadian Coast Guard vessel made three previous attempts to attach tow lines to the Simushir, after the freighter was disabled in a storm and its captain was injured, but all the lines broke in heavy seas. The captain was evacuated by helicopter Friday afternoon, leaving 10 crew onboard.
The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would bring 220 tankers to the coast each year, and First Nations were not impressed with the response to the Simushir’s near miss.
Pete Lantin, President of the Council of the Haida Nation, described a ship on the rocks as the Haidas’ worst fear come true, adding that the shoddy response cast doubts on the promise of world-class tanker safety for the Northern Gateway project.
“There’s nothing world-class about it. The fact that 20 hours is the earliest estimated time of arrival for anybody just reinforces what we have been saying all along,” Lantin told the Vancouver Sun on Friday.
“It’s a joke to think they could ramp up the amount of tankers through our territory and convince us that there’s world-class systems in place to respond. We’re scared. We’re scared about what this could mean. It’s the worst scenario possible.”
“The failure to provide tug capacity on the North Coast puts these incredibly sensitive marine ecosystems at unacceptable risk from shipping,” Karen Wristen, Executive Director of B.C.’s Living Oceans Society, told the Sun. “The Simushir was following the same course intended for oil tankers leaving the proposed Kitimat terminal of the Northern Gateway project.”
(This one’s for you, Capt. Irving.)