As a coastal community, with an expanding port, ferries, fishing and pleasure crafts, and vessels carrying diesel to and from remote First Nations communities, having an effective spill response team is essential.
The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) has been in operation since 1976, and Prince Rupert is one of the three bases that provides spill response from the Alaskan border to Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Bella Bella and other surrounding communities.
This year, the team received two new oil spill response vessels that are moored at the Cow Bay Marina — bringing the North Coast fleet to 10 vessels. The Kaien Sentinel is a 49’ landing craft, the largest in WCMRC’s fleet, and is designed to bring equipment and people to the beach to handle shoreline operations.
North Coast area manager, Robert Stromdahl, has been with WCMRC for nine years and has seen the organization grow over the years.
“Prior to myself starting it just had casual employees and contractors that worked up here and we worked out of sea cans out in the industrial site and we had a couple of trailers and that was about it,” he said. Now, they have 11 full time employees, a dozen casual workers, and they have trailers out on Ridley Island and at Fairview Container Terminal, with another new vessel to be added to the North Coast fleet in 2018 or 2019 that will require more personnel.
The distinctive orange, blue and white identify the spill response vessels that dominates a large portion of the Cow Bay Marina. Before the Prince Rupert base received the two new vessels, the team spent two months responding to the diesel spill in Bella Bella in Oct. 2016.
In Prince Rupert, the crew has also responded to two responses, one was in July when a fire claimed a yacht, and the other was when a pleasure boat sunk at the marina.
“We’ve also done other responses in the harbour. A couple years ago there was an old bunker pipeline that was leaking and seeping into the ocean. We’ve done a number of responses in the area,” Stromdahl said.
The North Coast team also has a number of training programs, including working with coastal First Nations communities, on how to contains spills, retrieve it and work with skimmers.
WCMRC is 100 per cent industry funded, and with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in the Lower Mainland, $150 million is being spent on 43 new vessels and barges to provide oil response for the project.