Chilcotin Princess (2015)

LOCATION: Namu, British Columbia

Case number: 120-669

On January 30, 2015, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) informed the Administrator that a 51-metre old steel vessel, Chilcotin Princess, was listing at its berth and in danger of sinking at Namu, British Columbia. The vessel was moored alongside the old dock of the abandoned Namu cannery for over 10 years. A portion of the dock had collapsed, so the vessel was at risk of capsizing and causing oil pollution.

The CCG Environmental Response personnel from Prince Rupert had previously contacted the owner and issued a “Notice” requesting that he provide a plan to address the situation by either relocating the vessel or removing the oil and lubricants from aboard. However, no action was taken by the owner.

On February 11, CCG engaged a marine surveyor from the firm of McAllister Marine Survey & Design Ltd., to examine the Chilcotin Princess and offer an opinion as to whether there was a significant threat to the marine environment. The surveyor found that due to the deteriorated condition of the hull, an imminent and ever-increasing threat existed. He recommended that all oils on board should be removed at the vessel’s current location, because the hull condition was in such poor condition that it would be unsafe to tow the vessel to any properly equipped oil removal facility.

The Administrator was further informed that in mid-March, Coast Guard hired a tug and barge loaded with recovery and pumping equipment from Wainwright Marine Services in Prince Rupert, to proceed to Namu and remove all recoverable hydrocarbons from the Chilcotin Princess. The on-site operation was expected to take at least three days and the cost was established at approximately $60,000.00.

On April 15, 2015, the Administrator received a report from the technical marine surveyor engaged by counsel to investigate with Coast Guard as to whether the removal of hydrocarbons from the derelict had been completed. Coast Guard advised the surveyor that the removal of the oil from the vessel was carried out over a period of five days. The recovered oil was transported to Prince Rupert aboard the Wainwright barge and subsequently transferred to Newalta for disposal. At that time, it was Coast Guard’s understanding that the Province was having a berth constructed in the nearby settlement of Shearwater on the north coast of Denny Island and the Chilcotin Princess would be moved to the new site.

On July 27, Coast Guard informed counsel that the vessel was in Prince Rupert being deconstructed by Wainwright Marine Services with the Province as lead. With this information, the Administrator instructed counsel to engage a marine technical surveyor to attend the shipyard and monitor the deconstruction to determine what, if any, part of the cost relates to oil pollution prevention. The following day the surveyor reported that the work on the vessel had started, but was halted when asbestos material was found on board. Remediation of the asbestos issue was later completed, and a scrap contractor had been engaged to begin final demolition in early August. The surveyor also advised that Coast Guard had removed all accessible fuel oil from the vessel at Namu, but it was expected that some minor fuel residue may be present in the tanks. The contractor had a plan to remove any residue found during demolition.

The surveyor also reported that Wainwright Marine Services had a contract in place with the Province of British Columbia to undertake the wreck removal and subsequent disposal of the vessel. It was expected that all work would be completed by August 21, 2015.

On September 19, 2016, the Administrator received a claim from the DFO/CCG in the amount of $137,680.88. After investigation and assessment on November 2, 2016, the Administrator made an offer for the established amount of $137,680.88 plus interest. The offer was accepted and the DFO/CCG was paid $144,794.66 including interest.

In December 2016, the Administrator started recourse action against the vessel owner and tasked a professional locator service to complete a locate and asset search. Counsel sent a Demand letter to the owner, a response was not received. On February 1, 2017 Counsel on behalf of the Administrator commenced recourse action against the Province of British Columbia, as the provincially incorporated company which owned the ship was dissolved before the incident. Counsel sent a demand letter to the Government of British Columbia seeking costs and expenses in the amount of $144,794.66 plus further interest thereon from the date of payment, i.e. November 23, 2016. The Province responded on March 7, denying liability for the claim. The case is pending in court and the file remains open.