20150702155246122Another vessel sank on Friday, June 12 in “Dog Patch” or more correctly Water Lot 651. Some life jackets, propane tanks, children’s toys and a fuel slick were observed and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) was informed. Their response was minimal… two young men in civilian clothes walked down the dock, were outfitted with life jackets and taken out on the water by Ladysmith Maritime Society staff. On the weekend a vessel arrived and could not locate the sunken vessel.
A few days later CCG returned and ascertained that a sailboat had sunk. It would seem that because of the potential for loss of life that the response would be somewhat more aggressive. Is the Coast Guard becoming blasé about Ladysmith Harbour? This is just another sinking, stranding, burning of a vessel in “Dog Patch”. Are we becoming inured to repeated problems in this areas? The fuel spill will evaporate and life will go on as usual.
Not so. There is a potential disaster awaiting Ladysmith Harbour. The 108 foot Viki Lyne II lies abandoned and anchored in water lot 651 and she is nothing to be complacent about. She has approximately 13,000 litres of oil and solvents on board and her sinking is imminent. She was abandoned behind the Dunsmuir Islands pre 2012. The Stz’uminus First Nation objected to her presence and the Coast Guard towed the Viki Lyne II to Dog Patch. Because of the condition of the vessel, the Coast Guard commissioned a survey in August 2012. They discovered 32,929 liters of fuel, hydraulic fluid and solvent including 15,000 liters of oil in the bilge. The vessel’s shell plating was measured and the surveyors stated that sinking was only a matter of time. They cautioned that scraping of the hull below the water line could cause inflooding as rust scale and marine growth were perhaps the only thing that were preventing water from entering the hull.
The survey made the following recommendations: “Removal of all oils aboard is recommended before the vessel sinks, which she will eventually do although the time line of the event cannot be established. Disassembly and scrapping of the vessel is the only certain way of removing her current threat to the environment.”
Two years later, in the fall of 2014 the CCG pumped 20,000 liters of oil from the Viki Lyne II. Some 13,000 litres remain in tanks, barrels, cans and lines. To put this in perspective, the recent bunker spill in Vancouver Harbour was 2,700 litres.
Ladysmith Harbour has been badly abused by coal barons and industrialists in the past and is slowly recovering. When Viki Lyne II sinks, what will the damage be? The commercial oyster industry will be severely affected. The Stz’uminus First Nation relies on a 150,000 pound annual harvest and employs 30 persons.
Other fragile sea life, sea birds and mammals will be harmed or killed over time. Beaches will be closed. Endangered Purple Martin recovery, which nest so close to this vessel will be threatened.Tourism will be affected. In the last three years the federal and provincial governments have invested over $2 million to support tourism in Ladysmith harbour which is bringing an economic return of $700,000 annually to the area. The Viki Lyne II lies in the adjacent water lot to this investment.
I understand the federal government’s reluctance to spend money and they obviously pull the strings for the CCG. The irony of this is that there is a fund in existence that is designed for problems exactly like this. Go to www.ssopfund.ca. The Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund currently has $405 million in it. Last year it cost $1.2 million to administer the fund and $141,000 was spent on its mandate. According to its 2013 Annual Report, in the past five years the fund has been used locally at least twice for the disposal of derelict and dirty vessels. In 2010 the 55 foot fishing vessel, Jessie Island XI and in 2012 the Lady Mary III, a 42 foot fishing vessel were deconstructed by Saltaire Marine Services, a local business. The amount of contaminants on board in both cases were far less than what is on board the Viki Lyne II.
Cutting up the Viki Lyne II and disposing of the contaminants will cost far less than raising the sunken vessel and trying to contain the mess. The resulting publicity caused by the fouling of our harbour because of lack of concern and action will be huge.
The Town of Ladysmith, Stz’uminus First Nation, and the Ladysmith Maritime Society have pleaded many times with the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Lisa Raitt, who administers this fund, to no avail. If this was happening in Vancouver Harbour, the response would be immediate as the media and public would be would be not as restrained as small town Ladysmith in an NDP federal riding.
Given the federal government’s commitment to upgrading marine pollution response in anticipation of increased tanker traffic on the British Columbia coast, their response to this easily solvable problem is hard to understand.
Nanaimo-Cowichan MP, Jean Crowder is aware of this problem and had tried her best to move the federal government. Your letters to the Minister Of Transport, the Honourable Lisa Raitt would help. The time for complacency is over and this matter must be resolved.