News media, governments, not interested in Mayne Island cargo ship grounding

Neither the major news outlets nor the Provincial or Federal Governments found it important enough to mention that a large 241 metre bulk carrier hit a reef in Navy Channel on the evening of November 18th. The tanker could potentially carry in excess of 2 million gallons of heavy black oil for fuel.

The grounding happened during high winds at Conconi Reef off Galagher Bay, Mayne Island. A tug towed the ship off the reef the next morning. Local folk contacted a selection of the local news media but only a few minor mentions were ever made.

Because of the potential for a spill affecting the San Juans, the Washington State Department of Ecology "mobilized staff and prepared to deploy response systems". They also issued a press release about the event:

“Damage to fuel tanks on a cargo ship that size could have oiled the islands on both sides of the border,” said Dale Jensen, manager of Ecology's Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program. “A major spill also could have forced a closure to vessel traffic. Given the profound environmental and economic risks we're relieved and pleased at the outcome. We mobilized staff and were prepared to deploy response systems as needed.”
State Sen. Kevin Ranker, who represents the 40th District, including his San Juan Island home, said, “This incident once again highlights the importance of having a strong spill prevention and response system in place, not only for Puget Sound but also for large transboundary spills that can have potentially devastating effects on our environment and economy.”

Canadian responses were somewhat underwhelming: (from the small Times-Colonist story)

"Canadian Coast Guard spokesman Dan Bate said no spilled oil or fuel was detected, and the coast guard did not have to respond to the scene."
"Matt Gordon from the B.C. Ministry of Environment said the ministry was notified about the incident, but would have acted only if a pollution problem arose. He said the ministry would have monitored nearby shorelines if oil, diesel or some other substance had been spilled, and would have used any necessary environmental-protection measures."

Victoria Journalist Paul Willcocks commented in his blog:

"The argument for tanker traffic relies heavily on the effectiveness and accountability of governments in protecting the public interest.
But only Washington seemed to think this important enough to tell the public about. The B.C. and Canadian governments didn't think you needed to know."

More on the story: The Driftwood
Olympic Peninsula Envrionmental News
The Dogwood Initiative

Update Nov. 24: The Victoria Times-Colonist added an editorial on the subject today: Sharp lessons in near-disaster.

"The freighter can carry 1.2 million [US] gallons of fuel oil, about one-tenth the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster.
A spill was averted in this case, at least in part because of good luck. The Hebei Lion ran onto the rocks at low water during a rising tide. The hull was apparently not punctured and tugs were able to free the ship the next day.
The incident raises several questions.
The most obvious is why Washington State officials -- who were notified of the grounding by B.C.'s Environment Ministry -- considered this important enough to tell the public about, while provincial and federal agencies here stayed silent.
That should add to concern about the governments' support for the Enbridge pipeline from Alberta's oilsands to Kitimat and the jump in tanker traffic as large ships transport the oil to Asia."

1 comment:

  1. The Dogwood Initiative in Victoria also covered the issue on their website They are heading a no tankers in Georgia Strait campaign so if you are interested in keeping tankers out, check their website out). This near-miss would have been a fraction of the impact that an oil tanker would have in our waters.