British Columbia

Fishing lodge barge runs aground on Haida Gwaii beach, raising fuel-leak concerns

A fishing lodge barge has run aground on a island in Haida Gwaii and response teams are working against time and tides as they assess a potential fuel leak.

Crews monitoring for damage, potential fuel leak

A fishing lodge barge drifted onto a rocky beach on an island in Haida Gwaii Saturday night. (Mike Meegan/Facebook)

A luxury fishing lodge barge ran aground on a rocky beach on Haida Gwaii Saturday night, leading to concerns of a potential fuel leak.

The barge, owned by the company HaiCo, was tied up to an anchor buoy in Alliford Bay, which is about 15 kilometres southwest of Sandspit on Moresby Island.

But around 9 p.m. PT Saturday, the lone person aboard the barge noticed it was adrift. 

HaiCo CEO Bob Brash says the barge floated about 10 kilometres west before it ran aground on a beach on Lina Island. 

HaiCo CEO Bob Brash estimates the fishing lodge barge floated around 10 kilometres before running aground this beach on Lina Island. (HaiCo)

The lodge bills itself as a a "truly premium fishing lodge located at the edge of the world along Haida Gwaii's west coast." The price of one four-day package is a little more than $5,000.

"It's on a bouldery-type beach just to the west of Queen Charlotte City," Brash said. "It's not the best scenario."

Danger to staff

Brash says several people went to the barge last night and this morning to do an initial inspection. The crew detected a strong presence of gas vapours indicating a fuel leak and several breaches to the hull caused by the large boulders on the beach.

While the barge is compartmentalized and there is little danger of any breaches causing it to sink, Brash says the gas vapours have made it difficult to determine where and how much fuel has leaked.

"That issue [of the gas vapours] has to be treated before the other issues can be dealt with," Brash said.

"We're not going to keep people on site until that issue is dealt with in a satisfactory manner because there is too much danger to the staff involved."

The sole member on board has also been taken off the barge.

Rising tide a concern

A team of people is is headed to the barge Sunday to assess the situation, including company employees, a contractor and representatives from the province and federal governments.

Brash said no fuel has leaked into the ocean but as the tide rises, that is a concern.

Michael Lowry with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation says a skimming vessel has been sent from Prince Rupert to the barge, but can't confirm is there is a leak.

"At this point we are not aware of any leak, it's just a grounding at this point," he said. "It's certainly a fluid situation."

The Ministry of Environment said it is monitoring the situation and the Coast Guard has established an exclusion zone away from the barge due to the potential hazard.

The Coast Guard says so far no pollution has been observed but a hazmat team will do an assessment.

Drift 'unusual'

The lodge spends the summer at Hippa Island off Haida Gwaii's west coast before being towed to Vancouver for the winter season. It was in Alliford Bay, on its journey to Vancouver, when it went adrift.

HaiCo CEO Bob Brash says he does not know what caused the barge to drift, but that the occurrence is unusual. (CBC)

Brash says the company, which has three lodges in Haida Gwaii, has moved barges many times over the years and doesn't know what caused the barge to drift.

"I will leave it up to other people to estimate what caused the problem, but [it is] very unusual."

With files from Liz McArthur and Nadia Jannif