B.C. First Nation chief renews call for 'super tug' emergency vessel as debris cleanup continues
The Chief of the Quatsino First Nation on Vancouver Island is renewing his calls for a "super tug" of some sort to be built and located on the west coast of the island to prevent future incidents like the one involving the Zim Kingston.
Chief Tom Nelson says he first met with numerous organizations, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, more than a decade ago to have a tug on standby in B.C. coastal waters.
"Back then I could see that one day there was going to be a disaster but nobody seemed to pay attention," Nelson told CTV News on Tuesday.
He says a vessel like a "super tug" is needed to protect B.C.’s coastline. He believes the spill of more than 100 containers off the Zim Kingston could have been avoided during its journey from Korea to Vancouver if such a vessel was available.
"If there was a super tug out there they could have towed that boat in to safe haven, that way it’s not out there rocking and rolling in the bad weather," he said.
Nelson says he isn’t accepting the argument that building the tug would be too expensive.
"But they’re always thinking about how much money it’s going to cost," he said. "Look how much damage it’s done and doing to our B.C. coastal waters right now on Vancouver Island."
When asked for a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard said contracts were awarded to Atlantic Towing of Saint John New Brunswick back in August of 2018 to perform similar operations.
The agreement was for a three-year leasing – including seven one-year extension options – of two emergency offshore towing vessels (ETVs) as part of the "Oceans Protection Plan."
The ETV’s are the Atlantic Eagle and the Atlantic Raven.
The spokesperson says the Raven has been standing by near the Zim Kingston at Constance Bank while the Atlantic Eagle recently assisted the canola tanker, the Champion Concept, off of Haida Gwaii on Oct. 26.
"I still say they should build a super tug that is on standby out there because there’s a lot of these ships that come into Vancouver Harbour," Nelson said.
"If they can have a super tug out there that can intercept these boats that are broken down, dead in the water, then they can tow it behind an island somewhere (where) it’s safe," he said.
As for current cleanup efforts, Chief Nelson says some members of the Quatsino band have been hired to assist with removing debris off his nation’s beaches.
He understands the containers that have come ashore will be cut into pieces and then airlifted onto nearby trucks.
He says crews have temporarily suspended their efforts because of an incoming storm system, but they know that even more debris will be washed up upon their return.
Nelson believes with more than 100 containers in the water off of western Vancouver Island, the cleanup efforts will continue for years to come.
"There’s going to be no end to it," he said. "It will go on for the next 100 years."