Province scrambling to put together response team for Haida Gwaii, says Vancouver-West End MLA

Haida Gwaii Wikimedia

With the 135-metre container ship Simushir carrying hundreds of tonnes of bunker and diesel fuel still without power and drifting closer to the coast of Haida Gwaii, the Ministry of Environment is looking for alternate methods to provide assistance.

“It’s too large for fishing boats to stop and too large for the coast guard boats to stop,” said Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. “So they can get people on and off the boat “but that doesn’t change the fact that the ship is moving towards the coast.”

The Russian ship’s captain was removed after an apparent heart attack, but unless the ship’s power comes back on, the coast guards and the Ministry of Environment are going to have trouble stopping the vessel.

“They won’t do anything at this point, because they’re just too far away,” said Herbert.  

The MLA says he’s been in contact with the ministry and has been inquiring where the response clans are, how are they going to get them there who’s available to respond in case of a spill and what’s being done.

“I was told they were scrambling to find out where the oil spill response clans are,” he said, “so all of that is being done right now. Hopefully they won’t have to respond because they’ll be able to get the ship started again.”

The ministries of Justice and Environment this afternoon issued a statement saying: Specifically, EMBC (Emergency Management BC) is engaged with its federal counterparts at the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Canadian Coast Guard to ensure a co-ordinated response. EMBC is co-ordinating calls with all partners at regular intervals throughout the day to make sure that B.C. is providing all supports possible to help with the federal government’s lead efforts. These will continue until the incident is resolved.

The government was informed of the power outage last night, and the response team didn’t start to form until this morning said Herbert, which “raises questions in itself.”

The joint-ministry statement said, “Once alerted of the ship being adrift (late last night), Emergency Management BC (EMBC) activated its emergency protocols to connect all partners involved and ensure a coordinated response.”

With the situation at hand Herbert admitted he was bombarded with questions about what this says about future oil tankers in the north. This shouldn’t be used for political advantage, but everyone has the right to ask, he said. If this container had been an oil tanker,  “the consequences would have been much much worse.”

As we’re seeing, the north is not a good place for tankers, he added. Especially since a lot of the tankers would be bigger than most container ships.

“I’m hoping this will stiffen people’s spine to say ‘no way, we will not accept full-stop oil tankers off the coast,’” said Herbert. “If you lose power, there isn’t a heck of a lot you can do for these giant ships.”

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