Ucluelet team gets oil spill response training

Western Canada Marine Response Corp. is set to boost local capacity in the event of an oil spill. (Nora O’Malley photo)Western Canada Marine Response Corp. is set to boost local capacity in the event of an oil spill. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Eagle Marine fuel dock staff Sandy Clark and Kurt Clayton practice deploying boom.Eagle Marine fuel dock staff Sandy Clark and Kurt Clayton practice deploying boom.
WCMRC crew deploy a hydraulic powered skimmer that sucks diesel off the surface of the water during the mock fuel spill co-exercise.WCMRC crew deploy a hydraulic powered skimmer that sucks diesel off the surface of the water during the mock fuel spill co-exercise.
All hands on deck for the debrief meeting with Eagle Marine staff, Parkland safety official, and WCMRC ops manager.All hands on deck for the debrief meeting with Eagle Marine staff, Parkland safety official, and WCMRC ops manager.

On a blustery Oct. 20 morning, crew at Ucluelet’s Eagle Marine – Columbia Fuels dock got to practice their oil spill response alongside members from the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

The mock scenario involved 1,000 litres of diesel spilling into the Ucluelet harbour. Eagle Marine operations supervisor Mike Marriott said the co-exercise went well, considering it was blowing 35-knots at the start and white capping.

“It gave us the opportunity to practice our spill respond in all weather. The beauty of this exercise is that we get to work with WCMRC. They are a great resource for training,” said Marriott.

After quick calls were placed to the emergency network, Eagle Marine staff Kurt Clayton and Sandy Clark were tasked to coral the mock diesel spill with 250-feet of boom on site.

“I was not comfortable to get in the boat at the beginning, so we decided to wait until it was safe. It was tricky pulling the boom out. The waves were pulling it back in and we were fighting with the tide. It’s probably a good thing we tested in these conditions,” said Clayton, noting that this was the first time he’s done the spill drill.

“It went well,” Clark added. “This is my fourth time and it was the roughest conditions.”

Erik Bowkett, WCMRC base operations manager for Ucluelet and Port Alberni, observed the drill from the dock.

“Our landing craft takes approximately one hour and 15 minutes to travel from the Port Alberni moorage to Ucluelet as conditions permit,” said Bowkett.

“WCMRC has secured moorage in Ucluelet, and we’ll be stationing vessels in the harbour on a permanent basis upon completion of some upgrades to the facility,” he said.

For the Oct. 20 mock spill exercise, WCMRC deployed the 38-foot landing craft the Nootka Sentinel and the 26-foot landing craft the Sentinel 32. The Nootka Sentinel typically carries 1,000 feet of boom while the mini barge that is moored in the Ucluelet small craft harbour has another 2,000 feet of boom. There is also two storage cans with 2,000 feet each of boom at Toquaht’s Secret Beach Marina and another 2,000 feet of boom in a Ucluelet storage yard.

After the Nootka Sentinel provided secondary containment of the fake spill, crew aboard the Sentinel 32 deployed a hydraulic powered skimmer.

“The skimmer sucks the diesel off the surface and its pumped into the mini barge storage unit,” Bowkett explains.

Ucluelet fire chief Rick Geddes and harbour manager Kevin Cortes watched the drill.

“I think they did a really good job deploying what they had. Practice makes perfect,” said Cortes.

In 2018, WCMRC signed a 25-year lease agreement with the Port Alberni Port Authority for more than six acres of land and waterlot areas for its base. Construction on the Port Alberni base is now complete and crews have moved in and are operating out of the base.

“We are still putting the finishing touches on the moorage, so the vessels have not yet moved to their new home,” said WCMRC senior communications manager Michael Lowry. He went on to note that there will be an open house for the public to tour the new base and vessels when everything is ready.

The Port Alberni-Ucluelet base is part of a larger expansion plan for Canada’s west coast. They are currently hiring for two positions for the Port Alberni base and will employ 20 full-time staff once fully operational.

WCMRC is funded by the shipping industry and oil industry. Shipowners over 400 gross tonnes or oil tankers over 150 gross tonnes pay an annual membership fee of $775 per vessel. Oil Handling Facilities (OHF) like Eagle Marine – Columbia Fuels are also required to pay a membership fee based on the volume of oil shipped and must have an oil pollution emergency plan in place to respond immediately to an incident.

The West Coast enhancements are largely funded by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project at an estimated cost of $150 million.

– With files from Susie Quinn



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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