Kirby Tug Leaking Fuel After Running Aground in British Columbia [Incident Photos]

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Friday: more photos added at bottom

An American tugboat pushing an empty petroleum barge has run aground and is leaking fuel near Bella Bella located on B.C.’s remote central coast.

Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

The tug, Nathan E. Stewart, belonging to Houston-based Kirby Corporation, ran aground just after 1 a.m. Thursday on a reef at the entrance to Sea Forth Channel on Athlone Island.. The tug later sank at about 9:50 a.m.

According to the local Heiltsuk Tribal Council, the tug was believed to be carrying about 60,000 gallons of fuel on board, and three of its tanks have been breached. 

The 287-foot long barge, DBL 55, is not loaded with any cargo.

All seven of the tugboats crew members have been rescued safely.

The articulated tug and barge (ATB) was sailing southbound from Ketchikan, Alaska to Vancouver when the incident occurred.

Photos from the scene show a heavy sheen of oil in the water surrounding ATB with no signs of boom placed around vessels.

Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Heiltsuk Tribal Council says the spill threatens to devastate a sensitive harvesting area for manila clam beds. 

The Canadian Coast Guard has vessels on scene along with other first responders. Additional personnel and equipment were en route from Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

“WCMRC was activated and deployed vessels and crew from their response base in Prince Rupert,” a statement from WCMRC said. “A mobile skimming vessel, two boom skiffs, a workboat and tug and barge with three response trailers were deployed to the scene. Local WCMRC response contractors from Shearwater arrived on scene and boomed the casualty. Vessels and crew from WCMRC’s Vancouver base are on stand-by.”

Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council
Credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

“This is a stirring reminder that the north coast oil tanker moratorium cannot be legislated fast enough,” Heiltsuk Tribal Council Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett said in a statement. “We must take note, however, that tanker barges like this might not even be included in the ban. The band needs to be complete, and spill response must be improved.”

File photo shows the ATB Nathan E. Stewart. Photo credit:
File photo shows the ATB Nathan E. Stewart. Photo credit: Heiltsuk Tribal Council

Prior to Thursday’s incident, the presence of the tug and barge in British Columbia’s Inside Passage has been a concern to local residents. Just check out the video below:

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