Location: Red River, Arctic
Case number: 120-655
In early March 2014, the Superintendent of the Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response (CCG ER) for Western Region was informed by Transport Canada in Prairie and Northern Region about the situation of the derelict vessel, Lord Selkirk II, aground in the ice-covered waters of the Red River. The vessel was previously within the jurisdiction of the CCG Central and Arctic Region, but with changes in the Region’s organizational structure, the vessel lay within the boundaries of Western Region. On March 14, CCG ER personnel were tasked to investigate. They visited the Selkirk area to assess the reported situation. They met with Transport Canada Marine Safety inspectors in Winnipeg and representatives of the City of Selkirk. Based on the information obtained, the Coast Guard personnel did not board the derelict at that time due to the reported presence of hazardous materials on board. It was decided that a proper assessment would be undertaken after the break-up of the ice in the spring, at which time the appropriate oil pollution prevention measures would commence.
With respect to the history of the vessel, the Lord Selkirk II was built in 1969 for operations as a passenger and cargo vessel on Lake Winnipeg and the Red River for approximately 20 years. In 1990 the old Red River cruise ship was taken out of service and moored to the bank of the Red River within the City Park limits of Selkirk. In June 2012 the once prestigious cruiser was set ablaze. The fire engulfed two decks of the ship and it took the fire department more than six hours to put the flames out. When the fire was extinguished, the ship ended up partially sunk where it still remains resting on the bottom in 22 feet of water. The current owners were in the process of scrapping the vessel when they declared bankruptcy. It is now a rusted hull and an eyesore in Selkirk Park. The Selkirk Journal reported on May 22, 2014, that the derelict had been leaching hazardous materials into the Red River, such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and other minerals. The newspaper reports all of these minerals are proven to be a danger to aquatic life, the watershed and the park marine environment.
Following the initial discussions with Coast Guard, the City of Selkirk retained Pinchin Environmental Ltd. to assess the potential hazards posed to personnel working on board the derelict vessel. Among other findings, the firm advised the City that it should not permit anyone to board the wreck without wearing Hazmat Protective Gear and that they are to be fitted with Scott Air Packs. The Pinchin assessment strongly suggested pre-cleaning specific areas of the vessel to allow for the Coast Guard to be able to safely remove any hydrocarbons found on board.
On May 12, three response specialists from Vancouver, Victoria, and Hay River, travelled to Selkirk to assess the pollution threat. They had a pre-operations meeting with City representatives. The City advised that it had obtained “permission of the owner to enter the boat”. With city supplied pumps the CCG crew spent three days attempting to dewater the compartments, but they encountered 6 to 8 feet of ice in the forward cargo hold and in the engine room. Oil could be seen trapped in the ice. Ice heaters were placed on board with little success. A decision was reached after consultation with City Authorities to wait for the ice to melt, so that a proper dewatering and a condition survey could be conducted. A containment boom was placed around the Lord Selkirk II, in the event oil would be released during the ice melt. Plans to return in early July had to be deferred due to high water levels in the Red River that would prevent successful dewatering of the vessel.
From July 20 to 24, two CCG response specialists returned to Selkirk to respond to any oil pollution on scene. They recovered the absorbent materials used to soak up oil upwelling from the wreck that had accumulated in the previously deployed containment boom. They also met with local authorities to ensure that Coast Guard is made aware of any future pollution damage.
On October 7, CCG ER personnel returned to Selkirk to dewater the vessel. They planned to complete a survey for hydrocarbons and, if required, work with a local environmental contractor to remove all quantifiable products. The Coast Guard crew worked on site from October 7 to October 16. Damage control found a broken pipe as the source of the water ingress. The pipe was repaired. During the 10-day period, enough water was pumped out of the lower decks to allow access to the main engine room. Day tanks were located and approximately 100 litres of diesel fuel removed. Also, 150 litres of diesel and 20 litres of lube oil were removed from the emergency generator compartment. The engine room was washed down and 26 pails of miscellaneous lube oils and grease were recovered along with oily bilge water. On October 16, with its work completed, the Coast Guard personnel met with the City Manager who advised that the City would be working in collaboration with Transport Canada and the Provincial authorities with respect to future disposal of the derelict vessel.
On January 27, 2016, the Administrator received a claim from Coast Guard for costs and expenses in the amount of $80,054.52, pursuant to the Marine Liability Act (MLA). Receipt of the filed claim was acknowledged on the following day.
The Administrator commenced an investigation and assessment of the claim. On March 16, 2016, he wrote to Coast Guard and requested additional support documentation about the contracted services in order to finalize an assessment of the claim.
On May 30, 2016, after investigation and assessment of the claim, the Administrator made a ﬁnal offer to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the established amount of $78,793.14 plus interest. The offer was accepted and paid in the amount of $84,591.76 including interest.
The Administrator asked Counsel to review the situation and to recommend how best to proceed with recourse action. The shipowner was a US company that had gone into bankruptcy. Counsel advised the Administrator to take no further steps as cost recovery success was unlikely. Consequently, on October 11, 2016, after careful consideration of all options available the Administrator closed the ﬁle.