The Barkley Sentinel, a 73-foot Ocean Class Oil Spill Response Vessel, arrived in the Alberni Inlet on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. It will be one of several vessels moored at the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s base in Port Alberni, B.C. (PHOTO COURTESY PA PORT AUTHORITY)

Spill response vessel arrives in Port Alberni

Base isn’t finished, but team is ready for emergencies

The largest of the oil spill response vessels for Port Alberni’s response base has arrived.

The 73-foot Barkley Sentinel motored into the Alberni Inlet on July 7, 2020. The Ocean Class Oil Spill Response Vessel was built by Rozema Boat Works in Washington State and is the first 73-foot vessel of its kind. Smaller versions of this rapid response skimming vessel operate elsewhere in B.C. and Alaska.

Workboats, which do the bulk of the work during a spill response, arrived in the Alberni Valley in June. A Zodiac has also practiced in the Alberni Inlet.

The Sentinel “is the second vessel to arrive. We’ve had a smaller workboat there for a couple of months,” said Michael Lowry, a spokesperson with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation. “(The Sentinel) will be a permanent vessel for Port Alberni.”

The oil spill response base is one of several being set up on the west coast as part of the TransMountain Pipeline project.

The WCMRC signed a 25-year lease agreement in 2018 with the Port Alberni Port Authority for more than six acres of land and waterlot areas for its base. The Port Alberni base is part of a larger expansion plan for Canada’s west coast.

RELATED: PROGRESS 2020: Port Alberni Port Authority marine cluster continues to grow

Moorage for the spill response vessels isn’t yet complete, so the Barkley Sentinel was brought to Tyee Landing when it arrived. Vessels will eventually be moored at the WCMRC pier behind Port Boat House.

A warehouse facility is also under construction on Port Alberni Port Authority property. Everything should be complete by winter 2021, Lowry said.

“We do have a temporary office. We’re leasing some space in Harbour Quay,” he added.

Twelve of an expected 20 people for the Port Alberni base have been hired full time. “Eventually, there will be nine vessels in total” between Port Alberni and a similar base planned for Ucluelet.

While their moorage and office may be temporary, the WCMRC team is ready to go in case of a marine spill in the Alberni Inlet or off the west coast. “The base will be completed in 2021, but we’re operational now. We’re looking at hiring crew as the vessels arrive. We are functional right now.

The WCMRC held two open houses in Port Alberni just before COVID-19 shuttered businesses. After a pause, crew members have been conducting training sessions around the Alberni harbour.

“For the last month or so in Barkley Sound and the Inlet we have been doing ‘geographical response strategies,’” he explained.

Areas for immediate protection have been mapped out—those that are environmentally or culturally sensitive—and crews have practiced laying booms around these areas.

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The crew of the Barkley Sentinel tie up the oil spill response vessel at Tyee Landing in Port Alberni upon arrival, July 7, 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY WCMRC)

Crew members from the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s new spill response vessels practice maneuvres in Alberni Inlet on June 18, 2020. Sentinel 32 and Sentinel 33 are workboats, which are considered the backbone of any emergency response—they can do a number of tasks. (BOB COLE/Special to the AV News)

The Barkley Sentinel, a 73-foot Ocean Class Oil Spill Response Vessel, arrived in the Alberni Inlet on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. It will be one of several vessels moored at the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s base in Port Alberni, B.C. (PHOTO COURTESY WCMRC)

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