Russian ship loaded with fuel adrift off B.C. coast
A Russian container ship carrying hundreds of tonnes of fuel has lost power and is adrift off the coast of British Columbia.
There are concerns that high winds could run the vessel aground --- with the potential to cause an environmental disaster.
The 135-meter Simushir is reported to have lost propulsion due to unknown mechanical issues. Authorities say it is floating off the coast of Haida Gwaii after getting caught up in a storm.
Vessel Finder, a website with shipping statistics, lists the Simushir with a weight of 6,540 gross tonnes
The Canadian Forces' joint rescue co-ordination centre in Victoria says the Russian ship lost power overnight as it was making its way from Washington state to Russia.
Canadian Navy Lt. Paul Pendergast told CTVNews.ca that a Cormorant helicopter has rescued the ship’s captain and transported him to Sandspit, B.C. in order to receive medical treatment for undisclosed injuries. Ten crew members remain on board.
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters are standing by to assist if an evacuation is required, Pendergast said.
Strong winds and high seas continued to pose a problem after the ship lost power, but the weather was expected to improve Friday night.
Acting Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall says the ship is currently about 17 kilometres off Haida Gwaii and carrying 400 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of diesel. The ship is also carrying mining equipment and chemicals. A tugboat is en route from Prince Rupert but is not expected to arrive Friday.
A Canadian Coast Guard vessel is also on its way to the scene, MacDougall said.
The Council of the Haida Nation posted concerns about the potential environmental impact of the Simushir hitting ground at Haida Gwaii in both a Facebook post and in a press release on Friday.
“The Haida Nation’s worst fear is coming true,” said Haida Nation president Peter Lantin.
“Our priority is to minimize the impact on our homeland and get our people on-site to start dealing with the grounding. We’ll deal with the politics of the situation later.”
The west coast of Haida Gwaii is rich in marine life and is home to dozens of ancient village sites.
The Canadian Coast Guard said it’s taking “proactive measures to ensure that an environmental response plan is in place as required.”
The co-ordinated response involves multiple federal and provincial agencies, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and B.C.'s Environment Ministry.