Barge carrying sand and gravel flips near Bella Bella

A barge carrying sand and gravel flipped in British Columbia's Inside Passage Sunday evening, says the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre says there is no environmental risk as a result of the incident

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre has dispatched the Gordon Reid to a barge that flipped in B.C.'s Inside Passage. (JRCC)

A barge carrying sand and gravel flipped in British Columbia's Inside Passage near Bella Bella Sunday evening, says the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre. 

JRCC spokesman John Nethercott said a U.S.-registered tug was towing the barge from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska when the cargo shifted, causing to barge to roll over and take on water. 

Nethercott said all four people on board the tug are currently safe and there is no risk of environmental damage. 

"At this point they have information that the barge is going to be sinking," he said, adding that it may not be recoverable.

"The tug has means by which it can disengage itself from the barge, so there's really no danger there."

The Canadian Coast Guard has dispatched the Gordon Reid "as a precaution," Nethercott said, and should arrive by about midnight. 

Crew aboard the tug have been ordered to go into shallow water near Swanson Bay for the night. 

Nethercott said the JRCC doesn't know what the conditions were when the barge flipped, or what else may have caused it to do so. 

According to the nearby Heiltsuk First Nation, the vessel is the Columbia Layne, a 37-metre tug and barge owned by Channel Construction.

The Heiltsuk say the barge sank after encountering rough weather, including high swells. 

Last month another tug with a barge, the Nathan E. Stewart, sank near Bella Bella, leaking an estimated 110,000 litres of diesel. 

Members of the nearby Heiltsuk First Nation are voicing their concerns about the incident, again calling on the federal government for stronger protection of coastal waters.

"Two incidents in four weeks is too many for these coastal waters. The Coast Guard and other marine rescue services are already stretched thin," said elected councillor Jess Housty in a written release. 

"It is clear that Minister Garneau and Prime Minister Trudeau's promised regulatory changes can't come soon enough."

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau visited Bella Bella Sunday.