CFB Esquimalt-based HMCS Calgary spilled 30,000 litres of fuel into the Strait of Georgia east of Nanoose Bay on Saturday. Crews in smaller vessels were dispatched this week to assess the effect of the spill and determine cleanup actions. Maritime Forces Pacific photo/Twitter

Investigation continues into naval fuel spill off B.C.’s West Coast

“As far as we’re concerned, any spill is one spill too many”

Don Descoteau


The environmental consequences of spilling 30,000 litres of light fuel into the Georgia Strait during an internal transfer aboard HMCS Calgary may not be the same as if it were bunker oil.

The Royal Canadian Navy, however, is taking Saturday’s incident aboard the naval vessel just as seriously.

“As far as we’re concerned, any spill is one spill too many,” said Lt.-Com. John Nethercott, senior public affairs officer at Maritime Forces Pacific.

“We’re treating this the same way we treat any spill.”

Four smaller ORCA-class training vessels were dispatched Monday to the area in question, with five specific areas to investigate between Greater Victoria and Parksville, Nethercott said. The ships can get into tighter areas than frigates such as the Calgary, to be able to check shorelines.

READ MORE: Naval ship spills 30,000 litres of fuel into Georgia Strait

Representatives from the Canadian Coast Guard and provincial environment specialists are on board to help in the detection phase and direct any immediate actions that need to be taken. “Plus we’ve fitted out the ORCAS with extra equipment to soak up any fuel they might find,” Nethercott said.

The F76 type fuel is believed to have been released from the Calgary between 3 and 8 a.m. during a re-fueling operation, according to the Ministry of Environment. This type of fuel is similar to kerosene and quickly evaporates.

“The spill was reported to have started near Parksville and ended approximately 100km southeast, just west of Tsawwassen,” the report stated. No sheen was observed, and Environment Canada determined there would “likely be no impact” to the shoreline.

The navy’s investigation into how the spill happened – crew members were believed to be transferring fuel from one tank to another, possibly for ballast reasons – will help determine whether it was human or procedural error, or a technical issue, Nethercott said.

“We’re a learning organization. Sometimes you have to learn the lessons the hard way and this is one of those times,” he said.

On Sunday, Environment Canada stated that its calculations “predicted a quick dispersion of the fuel due to sea conditions and the continuous movement of the vessel during the release.”

BC Ferries, Harbour Air and the public were also alerted to look to signs of the spill and report them to the Maritime Forces Pacific’s Regional Joint Operations Centre at 250-363-5848.

– with files from Nanaimo News Bulletin

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