British Columbia

Vancouver oil spill: Kits base would have had faster response, says former officer

A former Canadian Coast Guard captain says if the Kitsilano Coast Guard base was still operational, it would have been able to respond with pollution equipment within minutes of learning of the oil spill in English Bay.

'We would have been there in 15 minutes'

Captain Tony Toxopeus, a former coxswain at the Kitsilano Coast Guard base, says this week's oil spill should be the catalyst to reopen the station. (CBC)

A former Canadian Coast Guard captain says if the Kitsilano base was still operational, it would have been able to respond with pollution equipment within minutes of learning of the oil spill in English Bay.

"They could have been on scene at this spill, once it was reported to them within 15 minutes without a doubt," said Capt. Tony Toxopeus, who used to be a coxswain at the Kitsilano coast guard base. 

When the base was operational, Toxopeus says there was a multitude of equipment available to crew members to deal with pollution spills including a 12-metre work boat, a dedicated oil pollution response vessel and more than 300 metres of boom.

Kits station would have had fast response

"The Kitsilano station could have dealt with this quite quickly. It wouldn't have been 100 per cent cured but it would have slowed it down by a great percentage."

However, Jody Thomas, the commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, does not agree. She says having the station open would not have sped up the response time.

"The Kits station was a search and research station," she told CBC News.

"The search and rescue situation in Vancouver is functioning as we said it would. We deployed the correct resources with the correct expertise for the situation. That's what we always do. Kits had no bearing on the response to this incident."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, centre, looks out at the waters of English Bay before addressing the media on Friday morning.

The coast guard's response time has come under criticism from Vancouver's mayor and B.C. Premier Christy Clark.  Boaters in English Bay the day of the spill said the response took hours.

Toxopeus hopes that the spill will provide the catalyst to re-open the base with enhanced capabilities to handle spills like the one in English Bay.

"We were upset when they shut Kits base down ... there are going to be more spills like this and we need a quicker response system."


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