Spill-response vessels from four different bases on Vancouver Island rushed to deal with a make-believe oil spill in the Gulf Islands as part of a readiness exercise.
Twenty vessels from Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and Seaspan Marine Transportation were involved in the exercise in Trincomali Channel off Galiano Island on Wednesday, May 19, noted a press release from WCMRC.
Michael Lowry, WCMRC spokesman, told the News Bulletin the exercise simulated a spill of 2,500 tonnes of diesel from a barge. Vessels and crew members responded from Nanaimo, Sidney, Beecher Bay, Port Alberni and Vancouver in the first exercise involving vessels from all five WCMRC bases on B.C.’s south coast.
“Certainly for a lot of our newer crew, it would be their first big, full-scale exercise,” Lowry said. “It’s pretty important to do these to integrate those vessels and those crew into working as a system. Exercising our response plans and our tactics [were] a lot of the key objectives there for the on-water side of things.”
Vessels simulated how containment and recovery of the diesel would happen and how it would be loaded from skimming vessels onto “mini-barges” and then onto a 4,000-tonne barge.
“All the vessels were able to mobilize in a timely fashion and work in a co-ordinated way. Things looked good on the water,” Lowry said.
Meanwhile, a virtual incident command post was set up involving federal agencies such as the coast guard, Transport Canada and Environment Canada, provincial partners such as the B.C. Ministry of Environment, and impacted First Nations. Lowry said both the on-water response and the command operations were being externally evaluated by Transport Canada.
“They set the planning standard and these exercises are our way to demonstrate to them that we meet their planning standard,” he said.
WCMRC said the on-water exercise happens every two years as part of Transport Canada certification.