Location: Rose Blanche on the south coast of Newfoundland

Case number: 120-649

The Administrator was informed by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) that on March 14, 2014, the Panama-registered bulk carrier, John I, which was en route to Montreal, had lost power and drifted onto a shoal near Rose Blanche on the south coast of Newfoundland. The 23 crew members were rescued by a search and rescue helicopter. The shipowner contracted with the marine salvage company Svitzer Salvage for a tug, Ryan Leet, out of Mulgrave, Nova Scotia, to tow the damaged ship to Argentia, Newfoundland. The Coast Guard ship Earl Grey also proceeded to the site and attempted several times to connect a tow line before the ship grounded. Due to the adverse wind and sea state conditions, these efforts were unsuccessful.

The Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response (CCG ER) personnel considered the grounded ship to be an oil pollution threat. Therefore, personnel were deployed to the area from St. John’s. They set up a mobile command post in Rose Blanche with oil pollution response equipment. CCG staff assumed the role of Federal Monitoring Officer. On March 20, the Administrator was advised that the CCGS Earl Grey was escorting the tug and its tow to the port of Argentia. It was reported that there was an oil sheen of about 6 to 8 litres detected by surveillance aircraft, but that it was unrecoverable. Also, there is a report that the ship severed an underwater cable off Rose Blanche.

Coast Guard further advised that on March 22 the bulk carrier was secured in Argentia. Upon arrival, Transport Canada Marine Safety inspected the ship and found a significant amount of oily water in the engine room bilges. The bunker fuel had cooled and would require heating in order to pump out the tanks. A diving survey of the hull confirmed that the ship was badly damaged and may be a complete write-off. Transport Canada held the ship under Port State Control. The John I was held moored in Argentia and the shipowner arranged for Svitzer Salvage to remove the bunker fuel and lube oils. Finally, the ship was purchased by Meridian Marine of Quebec and was sold for scrap.

When initially informed about the incident, the Administrator instructed counsel to ascertain the ship’s ownership and other general particulars, because the case would likely fall under the Bunkers Convention. On May 2, 2014, counsel informed the Administrator that he holds a Letter of Undertaking (LOU) from the shipowner’s P & I Club. The LOU is in favour of the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund and the Canadian Coast Guard. It concerns the monitoring costs incurred by the Coast Guard during the grounding event.

On February 29, 2016, counsel informed the Administrator that the Crown and the shipowner’s P & I Club have come to terms whereby the P & I Club will settle the claim. In the meantime, the file remains open.