Canadian Manufacturing

Frantic rescue saves petrol-laden barge from sinking in Surge Narrows

A barge loaded with 60,000 litres of diesel and gasoline hit rocks Aug. 5 and began taking on water



CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C.—Coast guard officials and the crew of a tug had to work fast to prevent what could have been a major spill off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

A barge loaded with 60,000 litres of diesel and gasoline hit rocks Aug. 5 and began taking on water in Surge Narrows near Campbell River, B.C.

Coast guard spokesman Dan Bate said a lifeboat raced to the scene to help the tug crew refloat the barge.

The situation was especially dire because Surge Narrows, about 35 kilometres from Campbell River, is known for its treacherous tidal flows, with currents running up to 16 knots.

Water was pumped out of the barge, and it was refloated and towed off the rocks before being moved to port for repairs and removing the fuel tanks.

Bate said he believes the owner of the tug named the Island Chief called the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre when water started flowing onto the vessel.

The coast guard arrived at about 2 p.m. and waited until about 9 p.m., when the tide allowed the vessels to be moved, he said.

“It’s not unusual to see barges with tank trunks or fuel tanks on board,” for forestry camps, Bate said, adding it’s not known if that was the case for the barge, named Western Carrier.

Bate said none of the oily cargo spilled.

Transport Canada said it is investigating the grounding of the barge to determine if there were any violations of the Canada Shipping Act.

The agency said both the barge and the tug have valid registry certificates and that the tug was last inspected in March 2014.

The Transportation Safety Board is also investigating.

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