Victoria's harbour authority upset with research vessel's response to fuel spill

This week an estimated 10 to 20 litres of diesel mixed with gas leaked from a generator into the area around the Ogden Point breakwater.

Estimated 10 to 20 litres of diesel mixed with gas leaks from generator into area around Ogden Point

A slick can be seen on the water near the Ogden Point breakwater, a popular spot for people visiting the deep water port facility in Victoria. The spill was caused by a diesel-and-gas mix that leaked from a generator powering a ship docked in the point. (Chek)

The crew of a research ship that spilled diesel fuel into an area around a Victoria port should have immediately put up a spill boom around the entire vessel, says the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

On Monday, Feb. 1 an estimated 10 to 20 litres of diesel mixed with gas leaked out of a generator on shore that was being used to power the EV Nautilus, a 64-metre vessel anchored at Ogden Point.

"The response by the vessel was less than spectacular, and quite frankly, it is their responsibility to ensure that any type of spill boom is put out immediately," said GVHA CEO Ian Robertson.

Robertson said the crew only put up a partial boom around the stern of the ship, where the fuel had been leaking off the dock and into the water.

"I was down there myself and could see where the oil was leaking out, and that the boom had not been properly deployed. Obviously the process the crew had taken was not sufficient, and that's what caused additional oil to leak out and into the area around Ogden Point," he said.

"I would have liked to have seen a full boom around the ship, and that did not occur."

Nautilus team defends response

However Allison Fundis of Ocean Exploration Trust, which operates the Nautilus, said the organization is "very pleased" with the crew's response to the spill.

Fundis said the crew quickly located the fuel leak and stopped it.

"We did reach out to local authorities immediately when the leak was noticed, and  our crew did everything within our spill response effort to mitigate the risk," she said.

"We believe that the release of any pollutant into the environment regardless of the amount is a very serious situation, and our crew took immediate action to mitigate the effects on the local environment."

Ocean Exploration Trust was founded by Robert Ballard, who is best known for his 1985 discovery of the RMS Titanic.

Robertson said that though the spill was noticed around 9 a.m. PT on Monday, it was only around 2 p.m. that the ship requested assistance from the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, an organization that provides support in the event of an oil spill.

He said the harbour authority will work with vessels that are docked at Ogden Point to ensure they have an adequate emergency response plan in place.

This is not about pointing fingers, it's about learning from what has transpired and how we can make improvements to make sure this doesn't happen again," Robertson said.

"I've already drafted a letter to be sent to the owners of the Nautilus to ask some questions and to ensure they're better prepared."

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: Greater Victoria Harbour Authority not satisfied with research vessel's response to oil spill


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