Help arrives for massive fuel-laden barge stranded near Bella Bella, B.C.
Barge carrying millions of litres of diesel and gasoline broke free from its tugboat on Sunday
Marine rescue officials say a commercial tug has arrived to try and save a stranded U.S. barge with millions of litres of fuel onboard off the coast of Bella Bella, B.C.
A tug crew is now determining the safest way to pull the barge — which stretches longer than a football field — to safety.
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria (JRCC) says the Zidell Marine 277 broke free from its tug, the Jake Shearer, around 3:45 p.m. PT Sunday.
Two Canadian Coast Guard vessels — the Gordon Reid and Cape St. James — stayed on scene overnight to monitor the situation after crews dropped the stranded barge's anchor.
"There is no damage to the barge. All the fuel is contained inside. The wind died down overnight. So right now we are just monitoring everything," said Katelyn Moores, a JRCC spokesperson.
The 130-metre Zidell Marine 277 barge is located about 1.6 kilometres from the Goose Group islands and 45 kilometres from Bella Bella.
"It's a pretty exposed area," Moores explained yesterday.
Moores said the vessel is carrying 3.5 million litres of diesel along with 468,000 litres of gasoline.
Meanwhile, two of three other tugboats that were nearby when the barge broke free have been asked to assist, the JRCC said.
Officials had hoped to move the vessel by late Sunday, but strong 45 knot winds hampered efforts.
"That is significant weather," said Moores.
These are the rocks where the #JakeShearer sits anchored. A haven for sea otters, seals, whales, eagles, salmon and countless other animals. This is my home, where my heart is. Calm summer seas. Before the winter storms began to rage. This is what is at risk. #Heiltsuk #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/y4Et2AVLdf— @megzzzh
Members of the Heiltsuk First Nation have kept in close contact with marine officials and are anxiously watching what happens.
Last fall, the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground near Bella Bella and leaked as much as 110,000 litres of diesel fuel into the ocean.
The First Nation has been critical of how authorities handled the spill in its territory.
last time I was glued to the VHF like this it was the start of six weeks of emergency phase hell with NES. my heart can’t take a repeat. <\3— @heiltsukvoice
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