The spill of bunker oil from a grain ship anchored in English Bay in Vancouver last week has attracted a huge, perhaps even disparate amount of media attention. It has also resulted in politicians from all three levels of government pointing fingers at each other.
Neither of those factors highlights what should be the real focus of this incident — the ability of government agencies to deal effectively with oil spills, whether fuel from a cargo ship in harbour or at sea, or a cargo of crude oil or refined fuels which spills into the ocean.
The response to a relatively minor spill of fuel oil has been closely watched – not just by people in Vancouver, who have legitimate concerns about the state of their beaches, but by people from all over the province.
What they have seen has given most of them mixed feelings at best.
While the Coast Guard moved in and placed booms around the ship the fuel leaked from, that process took six hours – and this for a ship anchored in the harbour where the oil spill response crews are based.
The City of Vancouver was not notified for almost 13 hours after the spill was first reported. It was notified seven or eight hours after the oil spill booms began to be placed. Given the city’s responsibility for parks and beaches along the ocean that are used by thousands of people daily, this is inexcusable.
Political figures from the federal government have yet to speak up and promise that responding to oil spills on the coast is a top priority in Ottawa. It appears they are not.
This incident has raised concerns which have yet to be fully and properly addressed.
– Black Press