A large barge is sinking in Duncan Bay, just north of Campbell River.
The 98-metre craft, known as the Trailer Princess, and is a former rail ferry that had been converted to a helicopter platform with fueling capabilities. On Feb. 14, the Canadian Coast Guard were notified of the situation by a helicopter pilot.
“At the time, a crew from the Coast Guard Campbell River lifeboat station assessed the barge, and did not observe any pollution in the marine environment,” said spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard, Michelle Imbeau. “But the barge was deemed a threat to pollute, and was surrounded with 900 feet of containment boom.”
The barge owner’s representative told the Coast Guard there was approximately 200 gallons of diesel onboard, as well as propane tanks with unknown quantities, and other fuel within the barge’s hull.
At that time local First Nations and response partners were notified of the pollution threat.
“Over the next few days, the Canadian Coast Guard crews conducted lightering operations and removed a total of approximately 34,000 litres of gasoline, diesel, and Jet A fuel from the barge,” Imbeau said. “Skimming operations also removed approximately 1,500 litres of hydrocarbons contained within the hull of the vessel.”
A second layer of containment boom was added around the barge as additional protection, another boom was placed at the nearby shoreline to protect sensitive areas if necessary, and dive crews were contracted to plug holes in the hull to prevent further hydrocarbons from escaping.
“On February 20, it was determined that the remaining free floating hydrocarbons contained within the Trailer Princess’ hull had created a hazardous work environment,” Imbeau said.
All work within the hull was ordered to stop, but crews continued to remove recoverable product from within the containment boom, which lead to an additional 2,500 pounds of soiled sorbents (absorbent material) being recovered.
As of publication, the barge is confirmed to be grounded, bow heavy, and slightly listing to port side.
Drone and National Air Surveillance Program (NASP) overflights since Feb. 20 have confirmed the on-scene reports of minimal non-recoverable product being limited to within the containment boom.
Imbeau said the coast guard continues to monitor the site daily and is ready to respond to any potential releases from the barge. The containment boom remains effective and any soiled sorbents are removed daily.
Local First Nation Guardians are also assessing the site twice a week to check for potential impacts to sensitive areas.
Moving forward, the coast guard is currently working with HAZMAT contractors to determine a plan to safely remove the free floating hydrocarbons within the hull.
“This may also involve removing the barge from the marine environment,” Imbeau said. “As the barge contains interior tanks that cannot be accessed while it remains in the water.”