Friday, October 24, 2014

Prince Rupert Council to seek a Regional approach to Marine safety in wake of Simushir incident off Haida Gwaii

The Simushir at Dock at Fairview
from a gallery of photos from the
Prince Rupert Port authority
A portion of Monday's City Council session was turned over to a discussion of the events of last weekend regarding the Russian container ship Simushir and the difficulties it ran into off the coast of Haida Gwaii.

The incident which captivated the North Coast and Haida Gwaii for three days, offered up a stark reminder for residents of the dangers for shipping in North Pacific Waters, particularly in the stormy seasons such as we are about to head into.

The marine emergency, which saw the Simushir powerless and drifting towards the Haida Gwaii coastline, featured a full response of units from the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Military, US Coast Guard and a private tug, the Barbra Foss normally used to haul the Aqua barge between Prince Rupert and Alaska.

The Canadian Coast Guard Vessel
Gordon Reid on patrol off the
North Coast
It's due to the efforts of all of those that took to the waters off Haida Gwaii in horrible conditions, that the worst case scenarios that were circulating through the weekend never came to pass.

The Simushir, eventually was brought to dock at Fairview Terminals for repairs, with the vessel reportedly set to depart Prince Rupert perhaps as early as Saturday.

For Prince Rupert Council the weekend events however, became the topic for much discussion, with Council members looking to reinforce their message of the need for more resources for the North Coast when it comes to Marine Search and Rescue capacity.

Mayor Mussallem started off Council's review of events, highlighting the nature of the situation and the response that was put in place to provide for the safe transit to Prince Rupert for repairs.

Following his synopsis the Mayor suggested that Regional District should be taking he lead on the issue, as the need for improved resources is something that is not limited to Prince Rupert alone.

Councillor Ashley, who sits on Regional District, reviewed the discussions that the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District held in the week previous regarding Marine Safety, outlining the plans from the SQCRD to write a letter of concern on the situation.

For Mayor Mussallem, however a simple letter of concern isn't quite forceful enough for this particular issue, as he recommended that the Regional District needs to bring together all the communities and the maritime partners of the region,  to show the full resolve of the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.

Councillor Ashley stated that she and Councillor Kinney could certainly take that request to Regional District, the Mayor offered SQCRD  the opportunity to contact City Manger Robert Long for more background on the City's thoughts on the issue.

Councillor Garon, offered up the recommendation of including the Canadian Coast Guard as part of any distribution list for the City or Region's efforts, stressing her belief that there is a clear need for a Search and Rescue presence required on Haida Gwaii.

In addition to her concerns on Haida Gwaii, she pointed to the anticipated increase in shipping levels for the North Coast, adding that the current levels and those predicted for the future should guide the Federal government to increase the resources for the area.

Councillor Thorkelson, then offered a motion for Council which was adopted, calling for Regional District to collect information on the issue and put together a report to be delivered to the Federal Government regarding rescue capabilities off Haida Gwaii. 

With the Regional Body also to be tasked to serve as an alliance builder for communities on the issue.

A review of the eight minute discussion from Council can be found from the City's Video Archive, it starts at the 1 hour thirty four minute point and continues to 1 hour, forty two minute mark.

For more items of review on City Council Developments see our archive page here.

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