Fuel Barge Breaks Free from American Tug Off British Columbia

jake shearer tug
File photo shows the Jake Shearer pusher tug. Photo: Harley Marine Services

A fully-loaded American-owned fuel barge broke free from its tug in gale-force winds off British Columbia on Sunday, prompting a major response to save the tug from running aground. 

The Canadian Coast Guard reports that the articulated tug, the Jake Shearer, became disconnected from the fuel barge during its trip up the coast to Alaska. The barge is loaded with approximately 3.5 million liters of diesel and 500,000 liters of gasoline.

Two crew members aboard the barge were able to drop anchor, which appeared to be holding the barge in place just off Goose Island, approximately 25 nautical miles southwest of Bella Bella, B.C., according to the Coast Guard.

As of Monday morning there were no indications of any release of fuel.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid is on scene and along with a commercial tug that was en route as of Sunday night.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) has been activated and is deploying vessels to be staged near the barge as a precautionary measure.

The Emergency Management B.C., Canadian Coast Guard, Heiltsuk First Nation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, B.C. Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Canada, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, are all participating in the incident response.

The Jake Shearer, which is owned by Harley Marine Services and is flagged in the United States, was sailing from Cherry Point, Washington to Skagway, Alaska, according to AIS data.

The incident comes about two weeks after the Heiltsuk Nation published a report outlining plans to strengthen oil spill prevention and clean-up on the central coast exactly one year after the American tug Nathan E. Stewart ran aground and leaked oil near Bella Bella, highlighting the need for greater environmental response capabilities in the region.