[Update] Russian Cargo Ship Under Tow off Canada

By MarEx 2014-10-18 03:32:00

The Russian general cargo/container ship Simushir adrift and laden with around 500 tons of bunker fuel and 60 tons of diesel is now under tow off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada. The vessel is approximately 12 nautical miles northwest of Gowgaia Bay, off Moresby Island.

The Canadian Coast Guard says the ship was incapacitated in gale force winds early Friday morning. Eleven crew are onboard, and the ship’s captain is injured. He has now been evacuated by helicopter, and the US and Canadian coast guards and a number of other vessels are responding.

Winds are reportedly blowing the ship to shore in a seven to 10 metre seas, and it was expected to run aground.

However, the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid has now managed to secure a line and is towing the incapacitated ship away from the Haida Gwaii coast, according to officials with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria. Three more powerful vessels are on their way to assist.

The local indigenous group, the Haida Nation, had said the situation is dire. “The Haida Nation’s worst fear is coming true,” said president Peter Lantin. “Our priority is to minimize the impact on our homeland and get our people on-site to start dealing with the grounding. We’ll deal with the politics of the situation later.”

The 134m Simushir was built in 1998. It is controlled by Russia's Sakhalin Shipping and classed by the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) has been working closely with the Department of National Defence/ Canadian Armed Forces since the beginning of this incident. While the crew continues to work on restarting the ship's engine, the CCG is making preparations to stand up an Incident Command Post to manage the incident from a strategic location where all key stakeholders will be mobilized for a unified command, control and coordination of the response effort. This includes federal Departments, Provincial personnel and First Nations.

The CCG has been cascading available assets including, but not limited to the CCGS Gordon Reid, the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the CCGS Bartlett, the CCGS Arrow Post and the CCGS W.E. Ricker. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre has also tasked a nearby vessel, the M/V North Star to remain on the scene. In addition, the owners of the Simushir have tasked the ocean-going tug Barbara Foss to assist as well.

The Cormorant helicopter and a United States Coast Guard helicopter remain on stand-by and have been prepositioned to provide air support.

Furthermore, the Canadian Coast Guard is taking proactive measures to ensure that an environmental response plan is in place as required.