'Pretty congested': No fuel truck leads to frustrations at North Lake wharf

Fishermen at North Lake wharf say they're frustrated after the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission denied an application for a fuel truck to come to the harbour to fuel boats.

Wharf has two fixed fuelling stations but harbour authority says it's not enough

Sheila Eastman, manager of the North Lake Harbour Authority, said she wants to see IRAC update its rules around fuelling boats. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Fishermen at North Lake wharf say they're frustrated after the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission denied an application for a fuel truck to come to the harbour to fill up boats.

Sheila Eastman, manager of the North Lake Harbour Authority, said there's been a steady lineup of boats at the end of the fishing day since the beginning of the season.

'Pretty congested'

The wharf has two fixed fuelling stations but Eastman said they are outdated and inefficient, causing a backlog of boats in the harbour.

"The two systems that we have in place and have been in place for a number of years are situated in such a way that there are buyers on either side of them," she said. "Ninety boats trying to get fuel is kind of hard. It's pretty congested in here on good times."

Eastman said it takes just over 40 minutes to pump 1,300 litres of fuel using the fixed station. With a growing number of fishermen coming to the wharf, and many boats needing more than 2,000 litres of fuel, it's taking much longer for people to leave at the end of the day.

Jeff MacNeill is one of many fisherman at North Lake who said it's been a frustrating situation. Often there's not enough fuel in the tanks to supply all the boats at the wharf.

"I filled my vessel up this morning and I took 958 litres, and two or three of the other vessels that hold quite a bit of fuel filled up, and now some of the poor buggers are coming in and they have no fuel in there," MacNeill said.

No fuel tank allowed with fixed fuelling stations

Eastman said having a fuel truck on the wharf would mean filling tanks faster and safer. "It would probably take between 12 and 15 minutes to fill a boat that was actually empty to full," she said.

Fishermen and harbour officials at North Lake recently applied to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to have a fuel truck to come the wharf. They were denied. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Fuel truck operators are also trained to handle spills and fires. "I will be the first to admit that sometimes fishermen can be a little sloppy when it comes to the fuel. So it would be say it from a safety perspective, an environmental perspective, I think would be a little bit safer," Eastman said. 

Eastman said a fuel truck company applied to come to the harbour but was denied. IRAC told CBC it denied the application because there are already two fixed fuel stations at the wharf.

"Every application is considered individually by the Commission," wrote IRAC in an e-mail. "The Act permits fuelling from a tank truck at a wharf in limited circumstances where the required fuel cannot be accessed from fixed fuel facilities." 

Rules are 'antiquated'

Eastman said she along with many others at the wharf are frustrated and argues that the rules are outdated. 

"I understand that IRAC has to uphold the rules that they have in place but I feel that those rules are antiquated," she said. "I think they need to stop and think of that things have changed since the rules probably were put in place."

A fisherman at North Lake Harbour fuels up his boat at the end of his fishing day. It can take up to 40 minutes to take on 1,300 litres of fuel. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"I can't understand in this day and age why a truck can't pull into the wharf and fuel their vessels up," said MacNeill. "They're more equipped and it's better than ourselves."

In an e-mail, IRAC stated: "The Commission regularly reviews its regulations and procedures to ensure that consumers are provided with adequate access to petroleum products in a safe and environmentally protective manner."

But Eastman said she intends to keep fighting until the wharf has access to a fuel truck.

"It may not be something that happens in the next couple of weeks but we are not going to stop until we see if we can rectify the situation because right now it's just not acceptable."

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