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.