Weather Hampers Response to B.C. Tug Sinking

Courtesy Heiltsuk Tribal Council

By MarEx 2016-10-19 22:34:41

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council of Bella Bella, B.C. said Wednesday that high winds have delayed the response to the sinking of the ATB tug Nathan E. Stewart and the associated fuel spill. 

Responders began to remove remaining diesel from the Stewart on Monday but operations had to be called off due to the weather. There are also concerns that the Stewart could shift during the storm, the tribe said, potentially spilling more fuel from its tanks.

At the time of the sinking, it is believed that the Stewart was carrying roughly 50-60,000 gallons of diesel. Her tank barge was empty and was not a factor in the spill. 

The tribe alleged that they have not received any assistance yet from the Stewart's operator in regards to the expense of the local response effort, and the council indicated that it will be seeking compensation and damages. 

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau said wednesday that his government is committed to improved spill response capacity on the BC coast; he did not directly address the regulation of vessel traffic or rules on pilotage. The Stewart operated under an exemption from a requirement to carry a pilot.

None were injured in the grounding and subsequent sinking. Canada's Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the incident. 

Kirby Offshore Marine, the vessel's operator, said in a statement that it regrets the Stewart incident and is working to respond. "Western Canada Marine Response Corporation was activated and have deployed vessels and crew from their response base in Prince Rupert. A mobile skimming vessel, boom skiff, workboat, and tug, along with a total of 2,500 feet of boom, have been deployed to the scene. Resolve Marine Group, worldwide salvage and coastal recovery specialists, have been contacted and are deploying assets to the area," the firm added.