Fuel tanker aground in Northwest Passage

A fuel tanker carrying more than nine million litres of diesel fuel has run aground in the Northwest Passage, the Canadian Coast Guard has confirmed.

A fuel tanker carrying 9½ million litres of diesel fuel has run aground in the Northwest Passage, the Canadian Coast Guard confirmed Thursday.

The merchant tanker Nanny is shown in St. John's harbour. The ship was delivering fuel supplies in Nunavut when it ran aground Wednesday in Simpson Strait. ((Submitted by Clarence Vautier))
Coast guard officials say the merchant tanker Nanny, owned by Woodward's Oil Ltd., ran aground on an uncharted sandbar Wednesday in Simpson Strait, about 50 kilometres southwest of Gjoa Haven, a hamlet on King William Island in western Nunavut.

"The coast guard ship Henry Larsen has just entered the area. I believe it's at anchor just off of Gjoa Haven as we speak," Larry Trigatti, an environmental response official with the coast guard, told CBC News on Thursday afternoon.

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"It's monitoring the situation by helicopter. As you can imagine, there are some shoals in the area, so we want to be very careful in going into that zone."

Trigatti said the situation is stable and the modern, double-hulled ship wasn't damaged on impact. "And there's been no report of danger to the crew or loss of any product or pollutant," he said.

Woodward's is a major oil supplier to Canada's Arctic. The tanker has been travelling from Taloyoak as it resupplied diesel to remote communities in the region.

Jeannie Ugyuk, the MLA for Gjoa Haven, said she thinks the ship went off course.

"The local people of Gjoa Haven state that usually it goes more to the east side, but for some reason this ship went more to the west side," she said.

Woodward's has worked out a plan with the Nunavut government to free the beached tanker. Fuel will be pumped from it to another tanker until the stranded tanker is light enough to float. That operation could take more than a week.

Last month, another tanker owned by Woodward's ran aground near Pangnirtung, on southern Baffin Island.

The tanker had finished unloading a bulk shipment of gasoline on Aug. 8 when it became grounded in the local harbour, tipping at an angle in low tide.

No fuel spilled from that ship, which eventually became dislodged in high tide within hours. But the incident alarmed Pangnirtung community officials, who said they are not prepared to deal with a major fuel spill.

Ugyuk said a major spill in Gjoa Haven would have been devastating.

"I don't know if people are prepared for it. I know we're prepared for a small fuel leak," she said.