Simushir (2014)

LOCATION: Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

Case number: 120-624

On October 16, 2014, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) received a report that the Russian Federation general cargo ship Simushir was adrift 19 nautical miles west of the Haida Gwaii Islands, British Columbia. The ship had a main engine failure and was experiencing 7-metre seas with winds in excess of 90 kilometres per hour. On board there were 472 metric tonnes of bunker fuel oil and 59 tonnes of diesel fuel. All the fuel oils were in immediate danger of being released should the vessel drift aground on the Queen Charlotte Islands. The Coast Guard deployed three ships: Gordon Reid, Sir Wilfred Laurier, and Bartlett. The Department of National Defence positioned a Search and Rescue helicopter at Sandspit. Transport Canada tasked a surveillance aircraft to overfly the cargo ship. While awaiting a tug chartered by the owners, the CCGS Gordon Reid took the disabled Simushir in tow and was able to move the vessel further westwards. The master of the disabled ship was transferred to Sandspit with injuries. The contracted tug, Barbara Foss, out of Prince Rupert was having difficulties in the heavy sea conditions, but arrived on the 18th and towed the cargo ship to a safe berth in Prince Rupert Harbour on October 20. In port, some of the deck cargo had to be discharged and re-stowed. Also, a number of containers were damaged and cargo had to be transferred to new containers. The engine failure that was caused by a fuel cooler breakdown was repaired by the ship’s engineering staff. On October 22, a new Russian master joined the ship and it departed for Russia in due course.

While the event was occurring, there was significant involvement by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment and local First Nations Bands. On October 18, several environmental teams were deployed to Queen Charlotte City. The shipowner contracted a company to be prepared to conduct an environmental clean-up if required.

At the very beginning of the incident, the Administrator instructed counsel to obtain a Letter of Undertaking in the usual manner. On October 24, 2014, counsel for the Administrator in Prince Rupert served the ship Simushir with an arrest warrant. Subsequently, a satisfactory arrangement was reached with the lawyer for the shipowners regarding the appropriate level of security to cover any potential outstanding claims. In the meantime, the Administrator is aware that a number of claims have been settled on behalf of the shipowners.

As of the end of the fiscal year, no claim has been filed with the Administrator. Meanwhile, the file remains open until the prescription period has expired.