U.S. firm hired to evaluate old shipwreck leaking oil into Nootka Sound

Old shipwreck leaking oil

Canada is spending $7 million to hire a Florida-based marine salvage company to assess the wreck of an old cargo ship that is leaking fuel into Nootka Sound and stop any more fuel from getting into the water.

Work off the west coast of Vancouver Island is scheduled to start in mid-April.

The 483-foot-long MV Schiedyk sank near Bligh Island in January 1968 after hitting a submerged ledge and is now resting 106 to 122 metres below the surface.

A sheen of oil on the water was reported in late 2020, sparking a cleanup and monitoring effort that continues today. So far, 33,109 kilograms of surface oil has been recovered.

A team consisting of the Canadian Coast Guard, B.C. Ministry of Environment and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation is working together on a unified command post for the operation.

The contract with Resolve Marine Group was announced Wednesday by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who said wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels “pose a serious threat” to the natural environment.

She said the Canadian Coast Guard will work with Resolve Marine Group to address the threat posed by the MV Schiedyk. “This will help preserve the health and beauty of one of Canada’s most iconic coastlines for generations to come.”

Resolve Marine has worked on international cleanup operations before, including the six-month response operation in the Gulf of Mexico to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which affected offshore and coastal waters of four U.S. states.

The company’s job in Nootka Sound is to find and seal any leaks from the MV Schiedyk’s hull and to put on temporary seals to stop or reduce any more oil getting into the water. It must also survey the ship to verify the location of the fuel tanks, which might have been moved when the ship was converted from steam power to diesel.

Workers will measure the thickness of the hull, confirm the depth and position of the ship and identify any structural damage, particularly in relation to the fuel tanks.

They will also confirm the location of oil in the ship’s various tanks and compartments of the ship, map locations and identify any obstacles to oil removal, according to an information website for the unified command post. That will paint a clearer picture of the condition of the vessel and how much of a threat it is to the environment, and determine next steps, including recommendations for oil removal.

The site noted that there is a small risk that the assessment will disturb the ship and cause a larger release of oil, adding spill-response crews will be on the water and ready to respond if necessary.

Resolve Marine will be supported by Canadian subcontractors.

The Canadian-registered Atlantic Condor vessel will act as the operations platform. The ship recently arrived in Victoria from Nova Scotia to deliver two new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboats to B.C.

Also, an oceaneering company from Newfoundland and Labrador will provide remote-operated-vehicle support, and other local marine companies will contribute to the project.

The federal government introduced the Oceans Protection Plan three years ago to tackle the problem of wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels on Canada’s coast, an ongoing issue around Vancouver Island.

Since then, hundreds of vessels in Canada’s lakes, rivers, and oceans have been removed, Jordan said.

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