Friday, October 14, 2016

60,000 gallons of fuel are leaking from the tug boat Nathan E. Stewart, belonging to Houston-based Kirby Corporation, after it hit a reef and sunk at the entrance to Sea Forth Channel on Athlone Island.

Kirby Tug Leaking Fuel After Running Aground in British Columbia [Incident Photos]

October 13, 2016 by Mike Schuler

An American tugboat pushing an empty petroleum barge has run aground and is leaking fuel near Bella Bella located on B.C.’s remote central coast.  

Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

The tug, Nathan E. Stewart, belonging to Houston-based Kirby Corporation, ran aground just after 1 a.m. Thursday on a reef at the entrance to Sea Forth Channel on Athlone Island.  The tug later sank at about 9:50 a.m.

According to the local Heiltsuk Tribal Council, the tug was believed to be carrying about 60,000 gallons of fuel on board, and three of its tanks have been breached.

The 287-foot long barge, DBL 55, is not loaded with any cargo.

All seven of the tugboats crew members have been rescued safely.

The articulated tug and barge (ATB) was sailing southbound from Ketchikan, Alaska to Vancouver when the incident occurred.

Photos from the scene show a heavy sheen of oil in the water surrounding ATB with no signs of boom placed around vessels. Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Heiltsuk Tribal Council says the spill threatens to devastate a sensitive harvesting area for manila clam beds.

The Canadian Coast Guard has vessels on scene along with other first responders. Additional personnel and equipment were en route from Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

“WCMRC was activated and deployed vessels and crew from their response base in Prince Rupert,” a statement from WCMRC said. “A mobile skimming vessel, two boom skiffs, a workboat and tug and barge with three response trailers were deployed to the scene. Local WCMRC response contractors from Shearwater arrived on scene and boomed the casualty. Vessels and crew from WCMRC’s Vancouver base are on stand-by.”  

Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

“This is a stirring reminder that the north coast oil tanker moratorium cannot be legislated fast enough,” Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett said in a statement. “We must take note, however, that tanker barges like this might not even be included in the ban. The band needs to be complete, and spill response must be improved.” File photo shows the ATB Nathan E. Stewart. Photo credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council Prior to Thursday’s incident, the presence of the tug and barge in British Columbia’s Inside Passage has been a concern to local residents.


Tug boat and fuel barge run aground near Bella Bella: crew rescued, leak reported
  By Yuliya Talmazan Online News Producer Global News

A tug boat and a fuel barge have run aground just north of Athlone Island near Bella Bella this morning.

Joint Rescue Coordination Centre told Global News two Coast Guard ships were responding and another Coast Guard search and rescue vessel was on its way with special equipment on board to assess any possible environmental threats.

The barge is intended to carry fuel, but was empty at the time of the incident.

The tug boat had a crew of seven people. All are confirmed to be safe.

The vessel involved is “Nathan E. Stewart,” a 2001-built US tug boat.

Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council Marilyn Slett said in a release that at approximately 9:50 a.m. this morning the tug sank with fuel continuing to flow into the water. Kirby Offshore Marine said the tug had 50,000 gallons of fuel on board, and three of its tanks were compromised, according to Slett.

The company that owns the tug, Texas-based Kirby Offshore Marine, released the following statement about the incident:

“Earlier today, tug Nathan E. Stewart and barge DBL 55 ran aground in Canadian waters at the entrance to Sea Forth Channel on Athlone Island. All local authorities have been notified and a full response has been initiated. One Canadian Coast Guard response vessel, the Cape St. James, is already on scene…”

“The barge is empty of cargo. Western Canada Marine Response Corporation was activated and have deployed vessels and crew from their response base in Prince Rupert. A mobile skimming vessel, boom skiff, workboat, and tug, along with a total of 2,500 feet of boom, have been deployed to the scene. Resolve Marine Group, worldwide salvage and coastal recovery specialists, have been contacted and are deploying assets to the area…”

“Kirby Offshore Marine, owners and managers of the Nathan E. Stewart, regret that this incident has occurred and are working to respond and mitigate the impact of this incident.”

Slett claims the spill is threatening to devastate an area in which 25 important species are harvested, including manila clam beds that provide an important income for the community.

“Though we are thankful that the barge was empty, we are gravely concerned about the potential ramifications of the fuel spill from the tug,” Slett said.

Slett says with the changing winds and tide, there is concern that the spilled fuel will be pushed towards other important harvesting areas for herring roe, seaweed and clams.

PHOTO courtesy: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

“It’s really bad out here. A lot of fuel is on the beach already, and fuel is in the water,” said Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department director Kelly Brown from the spill site. “The initial spill response has been totally inadequate. The first responding vessels were not equipped to deal with a spill, and had to return to town to gather more gear. The Heiltsuk are providing our own equipment because what responders have been able to provide so far is insufficient.”

Slett says fuel continues to leak into the water and containment efforts are still underway.

She adds that Western Canada Marine Response Corporation commissioned by Kirby Offshore Marine won’t reach the scene until almost 24 hours after the incident.

Kirby Offshore Marine said in a statement: “A priority for the response will be developing a plan to remove all diesel aboard the tug and to safely salvage the vessel.”