The Hub City is expected to become a hub for oil-spill response in the region within the next two years.
Western Canada Marine Response Corporation could begin work on moorage and pilings this spring as it prepares to build a new base on Nanaimo Port Authority land on the south downtown waterfront.
WCMRC updated Nanaimo city council on Monday about its plans locally. The corporation’s expansion is tied to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and involves increases to staff, vessel fleet and number of bases.
WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry told city council that provincewide, the corporation will go from three bases currently to nine, double its vessel fleet to 80 and increase its personnel from 80 to 200 people.
An 80,000-square-foot Nanaimo base would have 34-35 full-time staff and 15 vessels and would become the largest oil-spill-response base on Vancouver Island and the main training centre for the Island.
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Lowry said his corporation is overseen by Transport Canada and has a mandate for spill response along the entire B.C. coastline. The current mandate is for a six-hour maximum response time in the Burrard Inlet and the mouth of the Fraser River and 18-to-72-hour maximum response times for the south coast shipping lanes. With the new bases in place, the maximum response times would be reduced to two hours and six hours, respectively.
Lowry said as Trans Mountain has pushed back its in-service dates, WCMRC has done the same.
“We are pushing back capital purchases as much as possible in those situations, but we have an obligation through the National Energy Board for all of our assets to be in place nine months prior to their in-service date,” he said.
With the pipeline project’s latest in-service date set for December 2020, Lowry said his corporation needs to be operational by March 2020; however, WCMRC is targeting September 2019 for the Nanaimo base to be fully operational.
Lowry reported to council on an open house held in Nanaimo in November and said the majority of respondents there gave positive feedback about the proposed base’s economic benefits and environmental impacts and approved of the chosen location.
“I think every organization that we can get on the water for a quick response is key for the environment and the people using the waterways,” said Coun. Jerry Hong.
Lowry said currently, WCMRC responds to 20 calls per year, the “vast majority” small spills that require an operation of no longer than one day. He said the Canadian Coast Guard has the authority to task WCMRC for any spill, regardless of size. The onus is on the businesses to self-report spills, but the coast guard can intervene when necessary.
Other bases on Vancouver Island will be at Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Saanich, Beecher Bay and Victoria. Funding comes from businesses that transport fuel over water, from major oil companies all the way down to fuel docks and even fishing lodges.