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Derelict vessels become unmoored in Port Edward harbour and will be more than $2m to remove

We dodged one big environmental problem with just luck - Mayor Knut Bjorndal

Two abandoned, and derelict sea vessels broke loose from their moorings in Port Edward overnight on Sept. 8, rendering the pier, gangway, and dock near the public boat launch in Porpoise Harbour unusable and creating environmental concerns. Initial estimates are between $2 million to $4 million in remediation costs for the incident, Mayor Knut Bjorndal said.

The 90 ft. barge named Scotch Cap, and a 150 ft. boat named Fair Wind, have been moored on the Prince Rupert Port-owned property without authorization for more than 14 years, a media statement issued by the Port Edward Municipality stated.

The vessels were previously used in the fishing industry. While primarily drained of oils and fuel a couple of years ago, they still house heavy oil, equipment including drums of unknown chemicals, and pressurized tanks of oxygen and acetylene, Bjorndal told The Northern View.

Monika Cote, communications manager for Prince Rupert Port Authority (PPRA), stated the PPRA has responded to the incident.

“PRPA has been active in trying to remove the unauthorized vessels from PRPA property for several years and has worked with partners, in particular the Canadian Coast Guard, to ensure interim monitoring and preventative mitigation measures were in place,” she said.

When the Port Edward mayor arrived at the site, after his office was notified by a member of the public in the early morning, he said it was an “ugly scene.”

“Both vessels were high and dry,” he said, with the ship being grounded on an estimated 20-degree angle and the barge on a 30-degree angle.

“We dodged one big environmental problem by just luck that the ship refloated this morning. We were afraid it was going to roll over and sink — even the experts from the Port Authority thought the same.”

“You know, this is a very small harbour and very easily can be polluted by fossil fuels. Not only are they (the vessels) an environmental issue, but they’re unsightly. Our motto is clean, neat and green. And then we have these two vessels spoiling all our good work.”

Damage from the incident has impacted the structural integrity of the pier originally constructed 70 to 80 years ago, Bjorndal said and will need to be evaluated by a professional engineer. It also prevents the public boat launch from being accessed.

“Over time, the dock structures and the apparatus that were holding these in place finally deteriorated to a point where they could no longer contain the vessels.”

The dock, the vessels were against, was crushed in the incident, with the gangway compromised and shifted. The area is cordoned off to public use, and Porpoise Way has been closed to traffic until further notice.

“Where the vessels are moored is a very strong tidal action with tides up to five to seven knots making it very difficult at the best of times to secure these two vessels,” he said.

“While PRPA and West Coast Marine Response Corporation have been involved in the initial response, it is expected the Canadian Coast Guard will manage the response operation and cleanup as required,” Cote stated.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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