VICTORIA -- Work on a shipwreck off Vancouver Island that was found to be leaking oil late last year is officially underway.

The MV Schiedyk sank in the waters of Nootka Sound near Bligh Island in 1968. Reports from the time of the sinking indicate oil was released for several weeks after the sinking. In December 2020, it was discovered that the wreck was releasing bunker oil from a depth of approximately 400 feet on the east side of the island.

After determining the site of the wreck was clear of debris that could hamper the salvage operation, a team of 25 technicians from Florida-based Resolve Marine Group completed the initial survey of the ship. Using a “remote operated vehicle” (ROV), the assessment included capturing clear images of the hull and testing its thickness.

“Thickness testing is done with an ultrasound machine equipped onto the ROV,” said Canadian Coast Guard Bligh Island Incident Commander Paul Barrett. “They 'fly up' the full length of the hull to give us an idea of what condition the wreck is in.”

“Currently they are down with the ROV beginning the patching work on the main area of damage that we’ve seen where the oil is leaking out of,” said Barrett. “We already knew in December and January where the oil was leaking due to other ROV operations, so Resolve prepared the equipment and the patching materials ahead of time.”

The Canadian government has a $7 million contract with Resolve Marine Group to help assess and seal up the oil leaks at the wreck, according to Barrett.

“We’re hoping to have this major patching operation done in the next eight to 10 hours and then we’ll be able to move on to some other survey work on the wreck,” said Barrett. “Once we’ve got some source control, we’re going to be drilling holes into where the bunker tanks should be on the vessel and they will take samples from it to detect what product is in those holds.”

Barrett says the examination of the bunker tanks will allow the salvage team to determine how much fuel oil remains on the wreck. He says once the drilling is complete the exploratory holes will be patched immediately.

The team hopes to pump the remaining fuel off the submerged vessel, preventing further leaks.

“The Coast Guard has done this on the West Coast the last few years when a value is placed on the hull and then it is pumped out,” said Barrett. “We’re really confident because we really have a world leader here working for us, we have a fantastic Coast Guard team and other government departments pulling in (and we're confident) that we will have some really good source control.”

When the assessment of the Schiedyk is complete, Barrett says he expects the team will have a good understanding of what the wreck is, what product is still onboard and what the next steps will be in the salvage operation.

Resolve Marine Group is expected to complete the assessment of the wreck by May 6.