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Concerns raised after ship runs aground at Port of Prince Rupert

Port of Prince Rupert ship runs aground

The recent ship grounding at the Port of Prince Rupert was at least the third such recent incident, stoking fears of oil spills. An area maritime attorney who’s an expert on marine emergency planning said ‘the accident could easily have been a disaster – and had it resulted in a major oil spill, B.C. wouldn’t have been ready to respond.’

The Port of Prince Rupert is usually in the news because it is expanding again or signing a new customer. The recent news wasn’t as positive, as an incoming container ship ran aground.

According to the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the Hanjin Geneva, a 915-foot container ship, ran aground on November 20 at Prince Rupert Harbor in British Columbia after it changed course to avoid a small fishing boat and hit a sandbar. No one was hurt, and no cargo was lost.

This is at least the third accident in Prince Rupert harbor. A bulk carrier hit ground in January 2007, and a freighter touched bottom in December 2009. The harbor is deep, but the area apparently subject to a 21-foot tidal range.

Activists and attorneys are already using the incident to highlight risks of expanding Rupert to accommodate oil shipments.

“Joseph Spears, a maritime lawyer at Straith Litigation Chambers in West Vancouver, agreed Prince Rupert has a remarkable safety record. But Mr. Spears, an expert on marine emergency planning, said the accident could easily have been a disaster – and had it resulted in a major oil spill, B.C. wouldn’t have been ready to respond.

“That vessel could have up to 3,000 tonnes of bunker fuel on it,” he said. ‘If that was a … spill, what would that look like on a dark and stormy night?”

Mr. Spears said federal government cutbacks have weakened the ability of authorities to respond to a major marine accident on the B.C. coast.

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