Oil-spill test in Gulf Islands waters

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation

An oil-spill response simulation was held by the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in the waters between Saturna and Pender islands last Wednesday as the company gets ready to add six new bases in preparation for the Kinder-Morgan Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

The reason for the exercise was to adhere to federal standards for oil-spill response and to also familiarize third-party contracted vessels with new technology. Transport Canada was also on site to oversee the operation.

Outside of the new ships geared to stop a spill, many vessels of opportunity will be contracted to help in the case of a spill. This, along with the six new bases (five of which are based on Vancouver Island), will provide advanced coverage for any spills on the coast, said WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry.

“It went really well,” Lowry said, adding that getting the contracted vessels up to speed with new tech were a focus of the exercise, which imagined a 2,500-tonne oil spill.

Lowry said that the risk to oil tankers is significantly higher in Vancouver Harbour and the Burrard Inlet, but there are risky areas around the Southern Gulf Islands.

“Turn Point is higher risk than other areas because there is a sharp turn there,” Lowry said. He also named Arachne Reef as another dangerous area for tankers.

The closest new spill-response base to the Gulf Islands is in Saanich. It will be one of the three bases open and ready for calls 24 hours per day and seven days per week. The other two bases are located in Victoria and the Port of Vancouver.

For much more on this story, see the June 14, 2017 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper. 

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