Crown Forest 84-6 (2014)

LOCATION: Zeballos Inlet on the west side of Vancouver Island

Case number: 120-663

On September 27, 2014, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) informed the Administrator that an old 40-metre barge was sinking and polluting in Zeballos Inlet on the west side of Vancouver Island. The apparent barge owner, a former chief of the Ehattesaht First Nation territory, advised CCG that he was unable to respond. (It was later determined that the person who presented himself as the owner was not, in fact, the registered owner of the barge. The registered owner had previously sold the barge for $1.00, so that the barge could be built as a youth centre for the Ehatis Nation; he did not realize at the time that it was registered in a vessel registry.)

The CCG Environmental Response personnel found the barge partially submerged and hung up on the rocks, subject to tidal action, in a sensitive herring and salmon spawning ground. A light non-recoverable oil sheen was observed. They also found that the old camp barge, originally used to accommodate a 25-men logging crew, still had various trailers and mechanical equipment on deck containing oils. The CCG personnel used vacuum pumps to remove 600 litres of diesel fuel from a tank on deck. In addition, CCG hired a local contractor – the Response Organization, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) – to use heavy equipment to remove the remaining pollution threats, such as fuel tanks and miscellaneous oil containers.

When informed about the incident, the Administrator instructed counsel to engage a marine technical surveyor to attend at Zeballos and investigate the situation. The surveyor met with the CCG Environmental Response supervisor and the provincial government personnel who were involved. The surveyor was informed that the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations was working on a plan to pull the barge ashore and deconstruct it.

On September 19, 2016, the Administrator received a claim from DFO/CCG in the amount of $67,348.81. The claim was investigated and assessed and on November 24, an offer in the established amount of $67,348.81 plus interest was made. Coast Guard accepted the offer and was paid $71,698.27 including interest.

The Administrator instructed Counsel to commence recourse action against the shipowner. A demand letter was sent on February 2, 2017. A response was not received.

On February 21, 2017, the Administrator filed a Statement of Claim with the Federal Court. Counsel for the shipowner responded to the February 2nd demand letter on March 13, 2017. The file remains open.