Jake Shearer Incident: Stricken Fuel Barge Safely Anchored in British Columbia

CCGS Gordon Reid
A photo of the CCGS Gordon Reid provided by the Canadian Coast Guard.

Update – The tug Gulf Cajun towing the previously-detached fuel barge have been safely anchored in Norman Morison Bay, BC for inspections, the Canadian Coast Guard said Tuesday. Booms have been placed around both vessels as a precaution and no pollution observed.

A fuel barge that had detached from an U.S.-flagged tugboat off of British Columbia in bad weather is currently under tow to protected waters, according to the latest information available on the incident.

The laden barge broke free from the American-owned articulated tug Jake Shearer on Sunday and came dangerously close to running aground near Goose Island rock grouping southwest of Bella Bella. The barge is laden with 3.5 million liters of diesel and 500,000 liters.

After becoming detached, two crew members on board the barge were able to drop anchor, bringing the barge to a halt less than one mile from Gosling rocks just to the south of Goose Island.

According to the Canadian Government, the rescue tug Gulf Cajun arrived on scene Monday morning and was able to attach an emergency attached tow line to the barge as additional equipment was being mobilized to the area.

As of Monday afternoon, the tug and stricken barge were underway with an escort from the CCGS Gordon Reid, which arrived on site on Sunday.

“Tug & barge are in transit 3 miles off the #BC central coast CCGS Gordon Reid is escorting the tow. Given weather forecast, aim to position barge in protected waters to assess condition & await another pusher tug,” the Canadian Coast Guard tweeted at 1:36 P.M. “No pollution observed & no hull damage,” the twee added.

The two crew members on board the barge are reported safe.

The Heiltsuk First Nation of Bella Bella said the incident highlights the need for greater marine response capabilities along B.C.’s inland passage and improvements to oil spill response in the region.

The incident comes barely a year after the tug Nathan E. Stewart ran aground and partially sank in the same area, releasing some 100,000 liters of diesel. It took salvors over one month to remove the sunken vessel from the area.

“During the response to the Nathan E. Stewart, three liberal cabinet ministers visited Bella Bella promising world-class spill response that has yet to materialize,” Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, said on Monday.

The articulated tug Jake Shearer is owned by US-based Harley Marine Corporation and was en route from Washington to Alaska when it broke free in bad weather.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) has been tasked with the emergency response.

“We are still working with local First Nations, the Province of BC and federal #partners Two crew remain on board the barge to assist in towing efforts. CCG and #partners are continuing to move in assets to Port Hardy and Shearwater,” the Canadian Coast Guard said in a second tweet.