Michael Lowry, communications manager with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, points to a map highlighting the company’s planned oil response bases throughout Vancouver Island during an open house at the Best Western Dorchester Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 21. WCMRC is planning to construct a Nanaimo oil response base that will serve as a hub for the region by 2018. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Nanaimo could become oil spill response hub

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation held an open house Tuesday

Residents got a glimpse yesterday of what a proposed marine oil spill response base in Nanaimo might look like.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the organization tasked with cleaning up oil spills along the province’s coast, held an open house Tuesday at the Best Western Dorchester Hotel. The company showed renderings for a planned spill response base in the city and provided information about the type of work it does.

WCMRC’s Nanaimo base would be located on Port Way and serve as its operational hub, employing 35 people. As many as 15 vessels would also be stationed at the facility, which would have the ability to deliver equipment for a 20,000-tonne spill within 36 hours.

Nanaimo’s base is one of five bases slated for the Island, with the other located in Sidney, Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Beecher Bay near Sooke. Additional bases are slated for Fraser River and in the Vancouver harbour and the entire project is expected to cost $150 million.

Speaking to the News Bulletin at the open house, Michael Lowry, communications manager with WCMRC, said he’s pleased with the turnout, adding that most people who attended have been curious about what his company is planning for Nanaimo.

“A lot of people were wondering why we chose Nanaimo and what the advantage of having a base in Nanaimo are,” he said. “People are more just curious about the process and the thought behind the decisions that have been made.”

Lowry said Nanaimo was picked as a hub because it had a decent-size port and plenty of amenities. He said Nanaimo’s central location was a factor because resources can be moved around more easily if a spill were to happen on the west or south side of Vancouver Island.

“It will be a lot quicker,” he said.

WCMRC receives an average of about 20 calls per year according to Lowry, who said in the event of an oil spill, the financial responsibility lies with the company or individual responsible for the spill. He said while the Nanaimo base is designed to deal with spills from freighters, it will be able to respond to spills from smaller vessels.

“We can use these for any kind of spill or callout that we get,” he said. “These new vessels, if we’re activated by the coast guard, they would be used for any type of spill. These are not just for that [Trans Mountain] project, they can be used for any kind of spill.”

During the open house, WCMRC had multiple staff members on hand as well as slides and videos explaining how the corporation operates and responds to oil spills.

George and Loraine Smith, who both have a background in zoology, attended the open house and told the News Bulletin they were pleased with what they saw and heard from WCMRC.

“It’s nice to see more protection of the environment and faster response time,” George said.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay was also at the open house said WCMRC’s decision to select Nanaimo for a hub is a smart decision that will bode well for the community.

“We are right in the heart of things and it is absolutely perfect and appropriate that it would be in Nanaimo,” he said.

Although the project depends on whether the recently approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project gets going, WCMRC anticipate the Nanaimo base opening sometime in late 2018. The company is funded by the oil and shipping industries, including Kinder Morgan.


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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