Crews look to have averted a potential environmental disaster in the waters off B.C.’s central coast, where a loaded fuel barge became detached from its tug on Sunday.
The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) says a commercial tug has successfully hitched to the 420-foot Ziddell Marine 277, and is towing it to safety.
WATCH: Well-known wildlife photographer worries that stranded fuel barge could have been massive
“The Gulf Cajun has the barge under tow, the barge has been moved away from the shoreline and it’s currently underway heading north towards the Millbanke Sound area,” said Victoria JRCC spokesperson Katelyn Moores.
Moores said the tug is being escorted by the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid, and that Transport Canada is now working with the barge’s owners to determine the safest place to take it.
According to the JRCC, the barge became separated from its tug, the Jake Shearer, approximately 45 kilometres southwest of Bella Bella at about 3:45 p.m on Sunday.
Coverage of fuel spills on Globalnews.ca:
The barge is carrying 3.5 million litres of diesel and 470,000 litres of gasoline.
It was sitting in the water a little less than one kilometre from rocks that are part of the Goose Group Islands.
The Gordon Reid assumed command of the incident at approximately 9 p.m., according to the Canadian Coast Guard.
Earlier on Monday, winds in the area were gusting with the force of a gale at 45 knots, or 83 km/h, according to Moores, but the weather situation has since stabilized she said.
There were also waves as high as 3.7 metres on Wednesday night, according to Environment Canada.
The weather in the area was “nasty,” noted Iain McKechnie, a coastal archaeologist with the University of Victoria.
Moores said two people boarded the barge after it went adrift.
NOTE: The barge was earlier incorrectly identified as the Jake Shearer. It is actually called the Ziedell Marine 277.