Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hartley Bay clean up, being held up by Ottawa

BC Ferries is not going to be shy about identifying where the hold up is, when it comes to cleaning up the fuel from the sunken Queen of the North off the waters of Hartley Bay.

In an article in the Daily News of Friday, David Hahn, CEO of B. C. Ferries says that the Coast Guard won't sign off on the issue and until they give approval the Ferry Corporation can't do a thing about the fuel that could leak out of the sunken ferry at any time.

Concerns over the possible extraction methods seem to be what have the Coast Guard concerned the most, with worries that any attempt to remove the fuel could make things worse than they are.

The full story appeared on the front page of Friday's paper.

Ottawa holding up Queen of North clean-up: Hahn
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, January 19, 2007

B.C. Ferries wants to remove any fuel from the sunken remains of the Queen of the North, but almost a year after the accident they still have not received permission from Ottawa.

“The problem there is not us, the problem is the Coast Guard,” said B.C. Ferries CEO David Hahn. “They have to tell us either leave it or take it out. We’ve got salvers, we’ve got the money lined up, the insurance company said they’ll pay but try and get anything out of anyone in Ottawa...”

The Queen of the North sank March 22, 2006 off of Gil Island, near the North Coast community of Hartley Bay. Home of the Gitga’at First Nation, the waters in the area are used for fishing and harvesting other marine resources.

Oil leaking from the sunken vessel was a problem for the community and their elders made their concerns known immediately after the sinking.

“The residents of Hartley Bay rely on these areas to feed their families and earn a modest living,” said Albert Clifton and Ernie Hill Jr., hereditary chiefs.

“These areas are an intrinsic part of the Gitga’at First Nations culture.”

Hahn said his company has provided all the information necessary to the Coast Guard to make a decision about the sunken vessel.

“Every other week, we phone and ask them ‘What do you want us to do, how do you want us to do it’ because the insurance company is prepared to fund what is going to be a $20 million US operation. It’s a lot of money and they are prepared to spend it but the Coast Guard has to be specific,” he said.

“They reason they don’t want to [make a decision] is they are worried is with all the different people they have talked to, they could open it up with these drilling holes and the ship could fall apart. Then you could have all the oil coming out all at once. They aren’t even sure there is oil there.”

This is not the first vessel sunk in the area in or around Greenville Channel that has resulted in repeated dithering from Ottawa.

In the fall of 2003, an oil spill was discovered on the eastern side of Pitt Island, 25 miles north of Hartley Bay.

The oil was leaking from the hull of a vessel believed to have sunk shortly after the Second World War — the 3,000-ton Brigadier General M. G. Zalinski, a U.S. Army transport ship that was heading from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska, when it ran aground in a storm and sunk in Grenville Channel.

The Coast Guard was able to plug the holes in the vessel and stop the leak of the fuel, but federal officials acknowledged in 2006 that the sunken ship could commence leaking again at any moment.

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