A 135-metre cargo ship laden with hundreds of tonnes of bunker and diesel fuel is adrift without power off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, and the Haida Nation fears the vessel will run aground tonight.
The Russian bulk carrier vessel Simushir is at the whim of wind and waves about 25 kilometres off Moresby Island's Tasu Sound, according to the Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria.
CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said storm warnings remain in effect for the area and the wind, which had been gusting from the southwest, will be changing direction.The Canadian Coast Guard reported that the ship was incapacitated in gale force winds at around 1:30 a.m. PT Friday. Officials said later that afternoon that efforts were underway to get the ship's engine running again, but winds could push the vessel closer to land before that happens.
"Over the next few hours, they'll be shifting, coming in straight from the west, meaning pushing against the ship, pushing it towards to east," she said Friday afternoon. "Really, the next 12 hours will be critical with the changing weather conditions."
B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polaksaid her ministry received news of the situation at around 6 a.m. Friday, and that preparations are being made in the event that the ship runs aground.
"The province is also contacting its partners in the B.C. Pacific States Oil Spill Task Force both to notify them of the risk and to ask them to provide mutual aid as needed based on the outcome of efforts to restore power to the vessel," a statement from her ministry said.
Acting Canadian Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall said the Simushir is carrying "a range of hydrocarbons, mining materials and other related chemicals," which includes 400 tons of bunker oil and 50 tons of diesel.
Ship's captain injured
Eleven people are on board and a helicopter was dispatched to remove the ship's captain, who is injured, MacDougall said.
The coast guard ship Gordon Reid is en route and is roughly 750 kilometres away.
A U.S. tugboat company, Foss Marine Ltd., dispatched the tug Barbara Foss from Prince Rupert early Friday with plans to tow the stricken vessel back to Prince Rupert. Officials said it wouldn't arrive until Saturday morning at the earliest.
The U.S. Coast Guard also dispatched a helicopter to Sandspit, on the main island of Haida Gwaii.
Haida Nation alarmed
The Council of the Haida Nation has issued an emergency alert in case the ship makes landfall.
'We're scared. We're scared about what this could mean. It's the worst scenario possible.'- Council of the Haida Nation president Peter Lantin
Rescue officials say the ship is drifting parallel to the coast so there is no imminent threat of it running around, but the Haida Nation is calling the situation dire, saying the ship could hit the B.C. coast before help arrives.
CHN President [kil tlaast'gaa] Peter Lantin said it's their worst fear coming true and casts doubt on the Northern Gateway pipeline project's promises of world class oil tanker safety.
"There's nothing world class about it. The fact that 20 hours is the earliest estimated time of arrival for anybody just reinforces what we have been saying all along," Lantin said in a Skype interview from Haida Gwaii.
"The systems in place are not adequate, and it's a joke. It's a joke to think they could ramp up the amount of tankers through our territory and convince us that there's world class systems in place to respond. We're scared. We're scared about what this could mean. It's the worst scenario possible."
The Simushir was en route from Everett, Wash., to Russia when it lost power.