Two large sea vessels that became adrift and ran aground in Port Edward on Sept. 8, have been stabilized, and significant environmental impact has been averted in successful efforts by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), but there is discontent with the lack of government agency assistance, the PRPA said, on Sept. 14.
The ship and barge were moored without authorization, for use in seafood offloading operations, at a pier and dock infrastructure on a PRPA water lot. the vessels have been at the Porpoise Harbour site since 2013. They were subsequently abandoned by the owners and operators when the tenant’s lease expired in 2019, the port authority told The Northern View.
“PRPA has been frustrated by both the lack of accountability from the previous tenant, and lack of support of various federal government programs, including Canadian Coast Guard’s Vessels of Concern Program, Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program, Transport Canada’s Hazard to Navigation Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Oil Source Pollution Fund,” Ken Veldman, vice president of Public Affairs and Sustainability of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said. “PRPA remains committed to continuing to work with relevant agencies and partners to ensure the safe disposal of the vessels,”.
The port authority had been seeking a resolution to the situation from the previous tenant as soon as it became aware of the vessels to no avail, it said. The removal and decommissioning of the vessels has been requested for several years through a partnership with relevant federal government programs but has been unsuccessful due to legal and financial barriers. The District of Port Edward and PRPA have been collaborative partners in these efforts.
“We need action, decisively and quickly. It took three days of buck-passing until any meaningful salvage took place. By then, it was too late to save the barge from sinking,” Knut Bjorndal, mayor of Port Edward, told The Northern View, adding that after the vessels became beached, the actions of the Coast Guard and the marine spill response team have been stellar.
Prince Rupert Port Authority said the vessel the Fairwind has a new anchor offshore where it is in a stable floating condition and not impacting navigational routes in Porpoise Harbour. The Canadian Coast Guard was able to move the barge Scotch Cap up higher onto the shore to protect it from higher tide cycles and improve the ability to secure it to shore.
“Due in part to preventative measures previously taken to mitigate potential environmental risks, including the removal of hydrocarbons, discharge from the vessels has been minimal so far,” PRPA stated. “Western Canada Marine Response Corporation is onsite ensuring the area has been boomed off to mitigate environmental risk. Discussion is ongoing with Transport Canada and CCG to determine a permanent solution to the disposal of the vessels.”
However, Bjorndal said the vessels are still a huge concern.
“The ship is anchored with no clear direction from the Port as to what will become of it. It is an environmental and safety concern being left at anchor,” he said. “The two vessels are still at the site. The vessel Fairwind is anchored in deep water away from the beach. There has not been any remedial action from the Port as of today (Sept. 15.)”
Bjorndal said the barge is also still a concern as it is grounded on the beach at the public boat launch.
“It needs to be demolished and moved quickly. It is interfering with the use by Port Edward and Prince Rupert boat users. We require the boat launch to be reopened ASAP,” he said.
The district mayor said an environmental assessment with on-site personnel and equipment to deal with the contaminants is currently being undertaken.
Before this incident, PRPA and CCG conducted several marine and environmental assessments of the vessels. The port authority said that the Coast Guard had conducted preventative repairs to the vessels, removed hydrocarbons from the vessels, and installed monitoring equipment on board the vessels. It has conducted preventative maintenance on the dock, including the dock’s re-anchoring in 2020, and continues ongoing monitoring.
Bjorndal said the dock the vessels were moored to was in a poor state for a long time.
“The moorings were owned by the Port. If they had repaired the mooring dock and placed anchors securing the barge and ship this incident would probably not have happened.”
“The old adage is that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. The beaching of these vessels can be traced to the poor state of the port infrastructure and lack of actions in making the moorings safe. The temporary measures by the Port to anchor the ship and beach the barge are very short-term fixes,” the mayor said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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