Update on Canadian Tanker Grounding

Exclusive to the Olympic Peninsula Environmental News: SUNDAY NIGHT 11/22 Update

The Canadian Gulf Islands and the U.S. San Juans dodged a bullet over the last two days, as the Canadian Coast Guard and others refloated a 794′ freighter that had run aground on Mayne Island, at Plumper Sound in the Strait of Georgia. Apparently no oil was spilled, though the freighter could have been carrying as much as 1.2 million gallons of heavy oil. The freigher apparently drug anchor during the storm, and ended up on “the reef” for as long as an entire night. Early reports stated  that may the ship may have  punctured it’s bottom, though the limited reports now out there are unclear on that issue. It was refloated Friday by the Canadians. Washington State oil spill response teams were shifted into action, according to  Dave Beyers of the Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Five sites in the San Juans that have been prepositioned by the state program were alerted,with staff and volunteers standing by. Since the freigher was righted and  assessments made relatively quickly, there was no moves to move additional equipment in from other, further counties, but it could have been if conditions warranted it, according to Mr. Beyers. (these spill prevention units are trailers that can be easily hauled around by truck or van.)

The 1.2 million gallons of potential fuel would have been a ‘disaster’, said Beyers, equivelent to 1/10th the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, but easily the largest spill ever seen in these waters. There was no readily available ‘rescue’ tug, as the Canadians rely on a loose coalition of independent tugs that would have to be called out to respond, based on availability. The tug at Neah Bay, paid for by Washington tax payers, is the only response tug on the Straits or the greater Salish Sea, composed of Canadian and American Sound waters. However there has been a Transboundary Oil Spill task force in place for a few years, which includes representatives of Washington, B.C., Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Idaho. Mr. Beyers said that the work, “paid off, in that we were in much greater communication, faster, because of these efforts.”

A report in the Gulf Islands Driftwood on Friday, the freighter ended up on “the reef, overnight” (meaning Thursday to Friday), “the call from a ashore at 9:53 PM” and the Hebel Lion called back “saying it was aground  at 10:12”.  It apparently went aground, “at low water with a rising tide” which may have been the saving grace of the incident. As the article states: “Industrial use of Plumper Sound, near Mayne, Pender and Saturna islands, has been an issue of concern for the Islands Trust. Trust Council passed a Dec. 6, 2007 motion expressing its opposition to offloading of industrial freight, specifically gypsum, in that area.”

Just a month ago, many of the key players in the U.S. and Washington State efforts met at the Jamestown S’Klallam tribal conference center on the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and discussed current state of the art oil spill prevention issues, along with questions on what more needs to be done to protect the Salish Sea. Members of the Puget Sound Partnership Straits Working Group, including this reporter representing People For Puget Sound, were present. The efforts to properly protect our waters is still a work in progress, and we were extremely lucky this time, it appears.

There is a background story worth noting here. The Canadians are planning to run a pipeline from central Canada to pump the ‘tar sands’ dirty oil to ports in B.C., where they would then transship it to China (so much for using this oil for North America).  There is opposition growing in B.C. to this proposal and it would be very inconvenient to upset the population at this point with a story such as this. There has been some comment already on Canadian blogs.  And it strikes me odd that no news sources other than this one and the State DOE have had anything to say about it. More to come this week, as I get feedback from others on this story.

For more on this story, contact Al Bergstein in Port Townsend. Email al at mountainstoneconsulting dot com. Replace at with @ and dot with .

2 Responses

  1. Just for the record, I (Gulf Islands Driftwood editor) posted this story on our website on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. The incident began on Wednesday evening.

    Al says: Thanks Gail. I tried my best to find another story on this by Googling, but even on Friday, no other stories showed up. I assumed that some Canadian news outlets were reporting on it, and they hadn’t yet shown up on either Google or Bing.

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