Report into English Bay spill faults shipowner for delayed response

The report, released on Friday, into April’s oil spill in Vancouver’s English Bay found that the initial failure of the offending ship’s owners to admit to the leak slowed the reaction of the emergency services.

Commissioned by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), the independent review came up with 25 recommendations along with its findings. The recommendations are aimed at improving the environmental response capability of the CCG, Environment Canada, Transport Canada and their partners.

Owners of the grain carrier Marathassa (80,635 dwt, built 2015) first denied responsibility, then took hours to concede that a malfunction on the ship caused about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel to spill into the bay on April 8, the report said. It was subsequently determined in the early hours of April 9 that the ship was indeed the source.

The spill soiled beaches around Vancouver, including along Stanley Park – the city’s jewel – and across the Burrard Inlet in West Vancouver. The response and recovery operation took 16 days.

There was minimal impact on the public from a health and safety perspective. However, Environment Canada estimated that approximately 20 birds were affected.

Among its 25 points the report recommended the CCG have adequate staff to respond to a major marine-pollution incident, conduct exercises with First Nations and release accurate information as quickly as possible. It also said the absence of officials from Environment Canada in the area impacted the response’s effectiveness.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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