After three years of construction, Western Canada Marine Response’s (WCMRC) new spill response base in Port Alberni is now fully operational.
The Port Alberni response base is now the primary spill response centre for spills on the west side of Vancouver Island, home to a warehouse, office and nine response vessels docked at new purpose-built moorage at the Water Street Dock on Harbour Road. The base has created 20 new full-time jobs in the area.
“Another two vessels are forward stationed in Ucluelet. The two locations provide initial rapid response for western Vancouver Island,” said Michael Lowry, senior manager of communications with WCMRC.
Lowry said the base is part of a larger spill response enhancement to meet the needs of the Trans Mountain expansion project. This larger expansion doubles WCMRC’s capacity and cuts mandated response times in half in South Coast waters. As part of the larger expansion, a number of new bases have been constructed, the majority of which are located on Vancouver Island.
“Along with the other bases, Port Alberni provides capacity to support the delivery of equipment for a 2,500-tonne spill in the shipping lanes within six hours and has the capacity to support the delivery of equipment for a 20,000-tonne spill within 36 hours of activation,” Lowry said.
Lowry said the Port Alberni base has been involved in a couple of recent responses, including the Hocking Point spill on July 11, 2022. This spill was caused when a 34-foot gill-netter, the Robert Brian, sunk off Hocking Point near Nahmint Bay in Alberni Inlet with an estimated 500 litres of diesel fuel aboard.
According to WCMRC, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) was first to respond and deployed 250 feet of boom establishing initial containment.
The Western Canada Marine Response’s Port Alberni base also responded to the incident, marking their third marine oil spill since the base came online.
The base was tasked to tend to the boom already deployed by the CCG, line the boom with sorbents and recover soiled sorbents. Responding to the scene were the 38-foot landing craft Nootka Sentinel and three crew, the 26-foot workboat Sentinel 32 and three crew and a 30-foot boom skiff with 2,000 feet of boom and anchor kits to standby and only be deployed if needed.
On July 18, 2022, the Coast Guard requested WCMRC remove the containment boom and leave one marker buoy to the anchor line for reference, ending the incident response, according to the marine response agency.
Another recent incident that the WCMRC was tasked to respond to was a fuel oil spill seeping from a shipwreck in Nootka Sound near Bligh Island. The operation began in December 2020.
Lowry said when crew members aren’t responding to spills, they train with local contractors and field test protection strategies as part of WCMRC’s Coastal Response Program.
“We are so happy to be here and hope to be a positive addition in your community,” said Erik Bowkett, Port Alberni base operations manager. “I would like to acknowledge and thank locals for their patience and understanding while the base was constructed.”