Tuesday, October 21, 2014

With Simushir in mind, focus on marine safety procedures and resources now a discussion point

Simushir at berth at Fairview Terminal
Photo from Prince Rupert Port Authority feed

The safe arrival in Prince Rupert of the Russian container Simushir on Monday morning, provided the most positive ending to what could have been a significant marine incident off the North Coast.

The events of the weekend were noted by Gail Shea, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as the Minister took to the official DFO twitter feed to offer up her congratulations for all of the hard work of the weekend.

The three days of drama off the coast of Haida Gwaii provided for an operation which tasked units of the Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Forces, along with the assistance of a US rescue tug and US Coast Guard assets. The good news of Monday morning, delivered through the remarkable work of many in very challenging and dangerous conditions.

And while the Simushir is now berthed dockside at Fairview Terminals awaiting repairs, there are questions being asked about the status of readiness on the North Coast for any future emergencies.

The CBC provided this interview on the theme of the time of response from the Simushir situation, which offers up some background on the challenges that face marine responders in the region.

Monday, Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for Bulkley Valley-Skeena took the events of the weekend to the House of Commons during Question Period, directing some of his concerns to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, who holds responsibility for Coast Guard issues in her cabinet portfolio.

Mr. Cullen, currently has a private members bill in front of Parliament, seeking to ban the transit of oil tankers along the North Coast of British Columbia, a project mainly directed towards the Northern Gateway project.

The NDP MP recently brought some of that discussion to Prince Rupert through his "Take back our Coast" public forum.

Curiously though, part of his proposal to ban raw bitumen shipments along the nature of the Northern Gateway proposal, includes the development of oil refinery facilities on the North Coast.  A project which would still in the end find oil tankers transiting the coastal waters of the region as they take their refined cargo to foreign destinations.

Most likely aware that they would become a topic for discussion in the wake of the marine incident of the weekend, officials from Enbridge's Northern Gateway project were quick on the talking points for Monday, providing background on the response plans that they would have in place and what procedures would be required for their terminal operations.

With much attention now focused on what the province and federal government believe may be a bountiful LNG industry for the region, as well as the ongoing expansion plans for the Port of Prince Rupert, the level of ships transiting on the North Coast carrying a wide range of cargo is bound to increase by large numbers.

For many, expanding the budget and resources for both the Canadian Coast Guard and Military is a key element of any plan moving forward,

As is the need to make sure that commercial tow and pilot resources keep up to speed with the changing requirements of the North Coast.

Those were themes that found a wide review on Monday, as the post-mortem on the weekends events was conducted by a range of media outlets.  Some of that review can be found below:

CBC-- Simushir kept afloat by "blind luck," federal opposition argues
Global News-- What did we learn from the Simushir?
Vancouver Sun-- Repairs begin for disabled Russian cargo ship as it arrives in Prince Rupert
Globe and Mail-- Crippled Russian ship docked in B. C. amid safety worries
CFTK TV-- Cullen says Simushir Incident raises Questions about Coast Shipping Safety
CKNW-- Russian ship emergency prompts worries about LNG carriers

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