The wreck of the Nathan E. Stewart near Bella Bella, British Colombia, October 13, 2016. Photo courtesy Heiltsuk Nation
A Canadian court has sentenced Houston-based Kirby Corporation to pay a $2.2 million fine after the company pleaded guilty to charges related to the 2016 grounding of the American tug Nathan E. Stewart near Bella Bella in British Columbia, Canada.
Approximately 110,000 liters of diesel fuel was released into the environment after the Nathan E. Stewart, while pushing a petroleum barge, ran aground approximately 10 nautical miles west of Bella Bella early on 13 October 2016, as the ATB was on a voyage from Ketchikan, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia, with 7 crew members.
A Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation into the accident pointed to crew fatigue, revealing that the second mate, who was alone on the bridge at the time of the accident, had fallen asleep after working a 6-on/6-off shift schedule for at least two days leading up to the incident.
Kirby this week pled guilty to three counts of violating the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Act and the Pilotage Act, and was sentenced to the CAD$2.9 million fine.
The company still faces a civil suit by the Heiltsuk Nation for environmental assessment and remediation costs, as well as communal harvest and cultural damages associated with the oil spill.
“Kirby Corporation is a multi-billion dollar American company, and yet it is Heiltsuk that has been on the hook for environmental assessment and remediation costs, while attempting to obtain compensation,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation. “This is a stark reminder for all coastal communities that Canada does not have world-class oil spill response, or an adequate compensation system for the victims of oil spills.”
The TSB report on the accident did address the oil spill response, noting that while Canada’s spill response regime could be improved, the oil spill response in this instance was adequate.
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