Western Canada Marine Response Corp. launched the first of 40 vessels for the Trans Mountain expansion project on June 12 in Prince Rupert. (WCMRC photo)

Western Canada Marine Response Corp. launched the first of 40 vessels for the Trans Mountain expansion project on June 12 in Prince Rupert. (WCMRC photo)

Rupert harbour sets scene for mock oil spill response

Ten vessels will be involved in the exercise meant to create a coordinated emergency response

Don’t be alarmed, the oil spill response exercise in the harbour is only an exercise.

Multiple crews, and vessels, are handling a mock oil spill response exercise in the Prince Rupert harbour, and the Canadian Coast Guard wants to assure residents this is not a real situation.

The training scenario involves a fishing vessel with mechanical failures leaking approximately 10,000 litres of diesel in the harbour, and how to handle the spill in the days following the incident.

“We’re exercising on that day three when the vessel has been taken away, that’s all dealt with, but now we have some issues on the shoreline, and that’s what we’re exercising. The assessment of that shoreline, the recovery and recovery operations in terms of recovery of oil, and coming up with a long-term plan that gives us sampling, assessment and monitoring of that shoreline,” said Jeff Brady, deputy superintendent, environmental response, Canadian Coast Guard (Western).

The coast guard led exercise will run on Tuesday, Oct. 16, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Several partners are involved including the Port of Prince Rupert, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitga’at and Gitxala and Nisga’a nations, City of Prince Rupert as well as federal agencies. The objective is to have everyone work together in a coordinated way when handling shoreline clean-up activities following a spill.

RELATED: WCMRC grows its fleet and spill response on the North Coast

“This whole process brings people together and gets people talking about oil spill planning and what we do in the event of an incident. This whole process leading up to the exercise is just so beneficial for everybody,” Brady said.

The coast guard leads several exercises a year, but an exercise at this level is done less frequently. Approximately 10 vessels are involved, including vessels from the port, WCMRC and the coast guard.

“WCMRC will be involved in the exercise both in the field and at the Incident Command Post. In the field, we will be deploying shoreline protection strategies and initiating a shoreline clean-up operation. Full-scale, multi-agency exercises are an important part of Canada’s spill response regime,” said Michael Lowry, communications manager for WCMRC.

When asked what the oil spill risk is in the Prince Rupert harbour, Brady said it varies.

“It is a busy harbour, and that’s where a lot of the risk is where we have vessels in anchor or mooring, tying up to docks and stuff so it’s why we’re choosing here. It’s also an exercise with a cross-border aspect as well,” he said.

RELATED: Trudeau announces bioregional oceans protection agreement in Prince Rupert


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