Tug sinking sees fuel spill action

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Strong winds and heavy rain that hit the coast in the early hours last Wednesday caused damage to more than just the hydro grid, with impacts along Salt Spring’s north-western tip including the sinking of a tug boat that caused a diesel fuel spill. 

The high tide at Ganges Harbour was forecast for 3.7 metres (12.1 feet) that morning, which did not account for extra surges caused by the wind. Driftwood logs were thrown up in a massive tumble on Vesuvius Beach after the storm and oyster farm rafts that had previously been hard hit on Booth Bay lost many of their remaining floats. Neighbours of Wahl Marine Construction on McGill Road reported a tug owned by the business was also victim to the wind and waves.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada personnel confirmed the Coast Guard was notified by the owner of an 11-metre (36-foot) tug on Jan. 13 that the boat had broken loose of its moorings off the north end of Salt Spring during the storm.

“The tug was located sunk in 14 metres (45 feet) of water, 91 metres (300 feet) offshore south of Stone Cutters Bay. Diesel fuel was observed upwelling from the vessel by the owner,” DFO stated.

The owner deployed a sorbent boom. An initial National Aerial Surveillance Program  overflight conducted on the morning of the 13th noted 97.5 litres on the water. A non-recoverable sheen continued to be present on the water near the site and drifting towards Penelakut Island, DFO said. 

“A salvage contractor was hired by the owner. The contractor attempted to plug the fuel vents on Jan. 13 but was unsuccessful,” DFO stated.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 20, 2021 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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