Those responsible for cleaning up oil spills along the North Coast were doing drills at the Prince Rupert marina last Wednesday. The Western Canada Marine Response Corp along with Northwest Fuels simulated a spill that would occur if an accident occurred while refueling a ship.
“The value [of doing drills] is that it gets all the people in the industry prepared if there ever was an incident. They’ll know what to do they know how the equipment works and they work together as a team, says the North Coast manager of the response corporation, Robert Stromdahl.
The responders put up inflatable barriers meant to contain the imaginary fuel that would collect on the surface of the water. Those who followed the BP oil spill last year will more than likely recall images of boats collecting oil and burning if off the surface of the water. The method used at the drill was much less dramatic.
Responders put in a skimmer, which is basically a box with an engine and four spinning metal discs. The viscous oil or gas catches on the discs and is scraped off by a blade and pumped through tubes into an inflatable 1,100-litre storage tank known as a “sea slug.”
For the drill they only used one skimmer and one boat, but some of the responders at the drill they have multiple skimmers and some other equipment needed for cleaning up heaver spills like crude oil. According to Stromdahl, the team in Prince Rupert consists of three full-time responders, and ship or facilities handling petroleum products on the water are required to have contract with them.
One responder in the drill said that he was disappointed that some people have the impression that the oil spill response in Prince Rupert is inadequate and the teams around the north coast area have the equipment to clean up 10,000 tonne spill. That being said, if the Enbridge pipeline is built, response units will have to be upgraded to handle a spill the size of an oil tanker.