Three coastal spill response boats unloaded on Vancouver Island are becalmed by funding delays.
Western Canada Marine Response Corporation received a shipment of three spill response boats Wednesday in Nanaimo, but delays in starting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will keep the boats from entering service.
The three nearly identical 300-tonne craft, christened Strait Sentinel, Coastal Sentinel and Gulf Sentinel, were built and sea-trialled in Singapore by ASL Shipyards and were hoisted from the deck and hold of the MV Happy Dynamic cargo ship at the Port of Nanaimo’s Assembly Wharf this week.
WCMRC refers to the craft as coastal response vessels, a new class of spill response vessel for the company, designed to work in heavier seas by Vancouver-based naval architecture and marine engineering company, Robert Allan Ltd.
“These are coastal response vessels and they are purpose-built boats for the West Coast,” said Michael Lowry, WCMSRC spokesman. “We wanted a boat that could handle the rougher weather out there … These aren’t fast boats. They’ll go about 10 knots, but they’ll get there in any kind of weather.”
But the boats won’t enter into service at their bases in Nanaimo, Beecher Bay near Sooke and Ucluelet, but will be laid up in Nanaimo.
Lowry said construction of the craft was started to coincide with construction of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which was halted in 2018.
“To meet the initial deadline, at the least the initial deadline, we had to begin the builds and those builds continued even after the announcement came out,” Lowry said. “Actually the boats had already been completed when the announcement came out, so we’ve received delivery, but unfortunately we can‘t bring them into service at the moment because there’s no funding. The funding for those vessels was going to come from the Trans Mountain project … so we’re not bringing them into the fleet. There’s no funds to hire a crew for them to operate them.”
Instead, WCMSRC will put them into a “warm layup” state in which the craft will be stored in Nanaimo and their engines and other systems run occasionally to keep them operational. They will also have to be provisioned and outfitted with the equipment needed to perform their tasks.
“There’ll be a lot of work on them in the next little while,” Lowry said. “They need to be recommissioned to be brought back up to an operating state after the voyage. They need to be outfitted with equipment … so there will be activity on those boats for sure.”