A slick believed to be bunker fuel oil in between freighters in Vancouver harbour.

Fuel oil spill from freighter in Vancouver harbour triggers cleanup

Port Metro Vancouver says oil in English Bay initially thought unrecoverable, then more was found and booms deployed

A suspected spill of bunker fuel oil from a grain freighter in English Bay has triggered an ongoing cleanup, as well as criticism of the effectiveness of the emergency response.

Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parker-Jervis said the port received reports around 5 p.m. Wednesday of oil in the water and dispatched a boat that confirmed it.

But there was no immediate move by the Canadian Coast Guard – the lead response agency – to call in the Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC) to deploy booms to contain the spilled fuel.

That didn’t begin to happen until 8 p.m. Wednesday evening, and it was six hours before containment booms were in place around the suspect vessel, the grain freighter Marathassa.

“It initially was deemed unrecoverable because it was quite a light sheen,” Parker-Jervis said. “But as the evening progressed they found heavier concentrations where it began to be deemed as something that could be recovered so booms were put in place and skimmer vessels of Western Canada Marine Response Corp. began their operations.”

Initial estimates from the Coast Guard peg the spill at 2,800 litres, with an estimated 80 oer cent of it recovered as of Friday morning.

The Marathassa initially denied it was the source but has been found responsible and is expected to be liable for cleanup costs. The new vessel was on its maiden voyage and is believed to have malfunctioned.

Despite the containment efforts, large slicks extended to shore, where cleanup volunteers were finding tar balls and oiled seaweed. A Vancouver Aquarium team was gauging damage to marine life.

Crews also moved to intercept oil that was migrating around Stanley Park towards the North Shore and Lions Gate Bridge as of Thursday afternoon, but some oil reached Sandy Cove in West Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver issued warnings early Thursday that the spilled fuel oil is toxic and people on the water or beaches should avoid it.

City officials weren’t notified for 13 hours until 6 a.m. Thursday and expressed concern about the delay.

Coast Guard regional director Capt. Roger Girouard said the shoreline cleanup phase will involve working with other agencies to weigh the benefit of cleaning soiled intertidal areas against the damage it may cause.

“It’s a lot easier to recover oil on a chunk of cement than it is on a shellfish bed,” he said. “We’ll take a look at whether it’s worth killing all kinds of nature to get one tar ball.”

Girouard said he wouldn’t call the spill “catastrophic” but Parker-Jervis said an incident of this type is “very rare” in Vancouver harbour.

Unlike oil tankers that carry crude oil from the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby for export, every freighter in the harbour carries bunker oil as fuel.

Opponents of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion plan, which would nearly triple Trans Mountain capacity and send out hundreds of extra oil tankers a year carrying oil sands bitumen, called the English Bay incident a reminder of a potential future nightmare scenario and predicted a spill of oil sands bitumen would be far worse.

The incident also reignited criticism of the federal government’s decision to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station, which its former commander said could have provided a much faster and more effective response.

Two of the worst spills to affect southern B.C. shorelines did not come from oil tankers or an anchored freighter, but smaller vessels that ran into trouble at sea.

The fuel barge Nestucca was punctured by the tug towing it in 1988 and spilled 5,500 barrels (874,000 litres) of bunker fuel oil off Washington’s west coast. Tens of thousands of oiled sea birds died from northern Oregon to Vancouver Island.

And In 1991, the fish processor Tenyo Maru sank in U.S. side of Juan de Fuca Strait with 14,000 barrels (2.2 million litres) of various oils aboard after it collided with a bulk carrier. Oil fouled shores from western Vancouver Island to Oregon.

Energy consultant John Hunter said the bunker C oil that is typically carried as fuel by everything from freighters to cruise ships is thick, viscous and hard to clean up.

“It’s the bottom of the barrel when you refine crude,” Hunter said. “It’s full of metals, it’s full of sulphur – it’s awful stuff.”

He said it’s too early to say how the oil escaped.

“It may have been fuel or it may have just been dirty bilges that had fuel in it.”

Aerial view of slick. Photo courtesy Chad Dey / News 1130 Radio.

 

Arial of the fuel spill in Burrard Inlet from this morn. Hope the spill response is quick/effective. #vanfuelspill pic.twitter.com/Gq5TRcnith

— Jayson Walker (@JWalker604) April 9, 2015

 

Sheen of oil/diesel on English Bay, lapping up on beach near Davie & Denman. Suspected spill from container ship. pic.twitter.com/DULaYj3ITc

— David Ebner (@DavidEbner) April 9, 2015

Just Posted

Surrey Mounties investigate drive-by shooting in Fleetwood

It happened Monday afternoon in the 8000-block of 153A Street. Police say no victim has been located.

18-year-old to hospital after shots fired in White Rock

Police investigating early-morning incident

UPDATE: White Rock RCMP unaffected by Surrey’s choice of police force, city says

Mayor Darryl Walker to meet with RCMP Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton

Surrey firefighters tackle blaze at Guildford home

Firefighters have yet to determine what caused the vacant house fire

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

US trial to tell epic tale of Mexican drug lord “El Chapo”

Guzman’s long-awaited U.S. trial begins Tuesday in New York

Northern California wildfire is deadliest in state history

Holding out slim hope as crews search for more fire dead; 42 already killed in blaze

UPDATE: Man, 19, dies following shooting in Abbotsford

Victim was airlifted to hospital Monday afternoon, but died shortly afterwards

Surging Rangers beat visiting Canucks 2-1

Goalie Lundqvist ties Plante on all-time wins list

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Most Read