Western Canada Marine Response Corporation staff members Conlan Magel, left, Michael Lowry, and Jamie Ferguson pose with a model Coastal Response Vessel at a March 12 community open house held at the Ucluelet Aquarium. A new Port Alberni-Ucluelet Response Base will soon serve as the primary response centre for spills of the West Coast. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation staff members Conlan Magel, left, Michael Lowry, and Jamie Ferguson pose with a model Coastal Response Vessel at a March 12 community open house held at the Ucluelet Aquarium. A new Port Alberni-Ucluelet Response Base will soon serve as the primary response centre for spills of the West Coast. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Oil spill response base on track for Ucluelet, Port Alberni

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation host community open house events.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) held a community open house on Thursday, March 12 at the Ucluelet Aquarium to share plans for its Port Alberni-Ucluelet spill response base.

The Port Alberni-Ucluelet spill response base is part of an enhanced spill response regime being implemented in Vancouver Harbour and along the Southern Shipping Line. The enhancements are being funded by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project at an estimated cost of $150 million.

“Trans Mountain’s project will increase tanker traffic in the Southern Shipping Lanes, where all deep sea vessels come in. Right now there is about one tanker a week and that will increase to seven tankers [a week],” said WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry.

According to a 2018 statistics overview compiled by the Port of Vancouver, the outbound metric tonnage of crude petroleum shipped between 2017 and 2018 increased by 67 per cent. The Trans Mountain expansion project came about in response to requests from oil shippers to help them reach new markets in B.C., Washington state, California and Asia, reads a statement on the Trans Mountain website.

Before the pipeline expansion goes into operation, the National Energy Board mandates Trans Mountain to have an enhanced spill response regime in place.

“We have a requirement to have [the marine spill response enhancements] up and running six months before they go into operation,” said Lowry.

Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, one of 27 major terminals out of the Port of Vancouver, is also getting a new dock complex as part of the Trans Mountain expansion project. WCMRC’s main base for Vancouver Island is Nanaimo with additional bases in Sidney and Beecher Bay.

“The Port Alberni-Ucluelet base will work in tandem,” said Lowry, adding that Port Alberni-Ucluelet will share nine vessels between the towns, including one large Coastal Response vessel built in Singapore and a Skimming Vessels built in Washington state.


WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry discusses spill response details with a Ucluelet resident on March 12.

Ucluelet fire chief Rick Geddes attended the March 12 open house.

“This is long overdue for this town for sure. Since I’ve been here eight months, I’ve already had two instances of significant spills of fuel on the water. Really, that’s not the district’s jurisdiction, it’s federal jurisdiction anytime you are on the water, but it defaults to me being the emergency co-ordinator for the district,” said fire chief Geddes.

“And that’s fine, I’d rather deal with it, but I have limited resources and man-power to deal with stuff on the water,” he continued. “We don’t have a lot of spill response gear as a fire department.”

Ucluelet resident James Costello is the president of the Pacific Rim Fish & Game Association. He spoke to the Westerly at the open house event on March 12.

“I think [spill response] an essential part of managing the risk associated with marine activities and infrastructure that’s in place,” said Costello.

“With the bigger boats coming in, even the larger fishing vessels, there is a need to have a response like this on the Coast for multiple user groups. It’s not just going to be for the [Trans Mountain] pipeline. It’s preparedness for the community in general and I think it’s a good employment opportunity as well. Having it here re-establishes Ucluelet as a marine industry centre,” he said.

WCMRC’s primary focus is oil spill clean up. The Port Alberni-Ucluelet spill base will work very closely with the Coast Guard, and plan on doing some cross-training with local fire departments to help with response.

“The project is to reduce response times this area. So going from sometimes a 72-hour response time to a six-hour. And in Vancouver from a six-hour down to a two-hour,” said Lowry.

Construction for the Port Alberni-Ucluelet spill base is aiming to be complete in the winter of 2021.

The new West Coast spill response facility will employ 20 residents living in the Port Alberni or Ucluelet area.

“Primarily we are looking to hire mariners. From deck hands to captains to engineers and then we train them on spill response tactics and techniques,” Lowry said.

WCMRC employee out of Vancouver Conlan Magel has a biology degree in environmental protection. Five years ago, he began his career within WCMRC as a young summer student in the operations department.

“I joined this company because the mission was in-line with my personal values. I have been in B.C. my entire life. I go up and down the Coast all the time. I love the environment,” said Magel.

“Everyone [at WCRMRC] is a mariner or has some connection to the ocean, so we are working together to protect it,” he said.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Construction on Nanaimo spill response base slated to begin in the spring

READ: Trans Mountain pipeline expansion cost jumps 70% to $12.6 billion

RELATED: Canadian Spill Response Regime

Ocean Protectionoil and gasPort AlberniTrans Mountain pipelineucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The PAGo Grannies have a table set up at a farmer’s market to sell handcrafted items to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PAGo Grannies promote nationwide concert for Stephen Lewis Foundation

Register online to watch Together in Concert starting April 15

The new council for Hupacasath First Nation. From left to right: Councillor Ricky-Lee Watts, Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder, Councillor Jolleen Dick and Councillor Warren Lauder. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Hupacasath First Nation chooses new chief councillor, council

First change of leadership in a decade for Vancouver Island nation

A trailer with fire damage is taped off by the Port Alberni Fire Department at the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fire knocked down at Wintergreen Apartments trailer

City is concerned about zoning, building code and fire code infractions surrounding the trailers

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read