Response time for spills in Vancouver Harbour could be cut in half if a new project gets the green light.
Western Canada Marine Response Corporation is moving forward with plans to build an on-water base that would improve spill response by bringing existing clean-up vessels and crews together in one location for 24/7 operation.
As operations currently stand, crew are on-call during all hours of the day and night, but not on-site.
What would an “on-water base” look like?
The on-water base would be built at 2800 Commissioner Street, near New Brighton Park, on the site of the old Prince Rupert Fishing Co-operative. The new facility would primarily consist of new docks to moor vessels, as well as an office to accommodate response crews.
WCMRC’s two large barges would act as a breakwater for rapid response vessels, mobile skimmers, workboats and mini-barges. The base would also provide moorage for one of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ new fireboats.
Existing efforts looking good
Michael Lowry, WCMRC Communications Manager, says existing spill response efforts are going very well and that the base would just enhance what’s already there.
“We already have 17 vessels in Vancouver Harbour, this is just a way to consolidate those vessels in one location and allows us to cut down our response times.”
The project depends on funding from approval of the Trans Mountain expansion, but Michael Lowry with the Response Corporation says improvements will be made regardless.
“Let’s say we don’t have a Kinder Morgan project move ahead, we’re going to still see changes on spill response or changes on spill response from the federal level.”
The base is only one part of a $200 million project devoted to spill response enhancement.
The enhancements include five new response bases, approximately 115 new employees and approximately 26 new vessels at strategic locations along B.C.’s southern shipping lane.
Would the base have helped efforts in last Spring’s tanker spill?
Lowry says WCMRC was thoroughly satisfied with its response time in the English Bay spill. That being said, the proposed base would have definitely enhanced efforts even further, he says.
If the Trans Mountain Expansion Project goes ahead, and the Vancouver Harbour base receives approval from the port authority’s Project and Environmental Review Process, construction would begin in early 2017.
And the base would be fully operational in 2018.