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Ship that spilled bunker fuel into Vancouver's English Bay was on first voyage

A spill response boat monitors a boom placed around the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa after a bunker fuel spill on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver on Thursday April 9, 2015.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
April 10, 2015 - 12:56 PM

VANCOUVER - The bulk carrier ship that has been confirmed as the source of an estimated 2,700 litre bunker fuel spill into Vancouver's English Bay was on its maiden voyage.

The source and the kind of fuel that was spilled answers only a few of the many questions from the public, politicians and lead agencies about the disaster that polluted one of the city's most popular destinations.

Yvette Myers, regional director of Marine Safety and Security of Transport Canada, said there appeared to be a malfunction in the vessel, which just came out of the shipyard in February.

The MV Marathassa was constructed in Japan and was in Vancouver to collect grain when it began to leak on Wednesday.

"We certainly believe that it was unintentional," she said, referring to the malfunction.

"Transport Canada really needs to determine the root cause."

Both Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in separate news conferences Friday that they have concerns about the speed of the emergency response.

Robertson said if the spill was larger it would have been a "catastrophe."

Clark said that had the province been the lead agency, it could have done a better job.

"And if that means that in the future, the coast guard is relieved of its lead in this and starts taking direction from the province, then perhaps that's a better way to do it."

Clark said the province has a lot of experience in dealing with similar disasters like forest fires that encroach on provincial communities.

Both the mayor and the premier noted it took six hours to get a oil-absorbing boom around the ship that was suspected of leaking the fuel.

But Roger Girouard, the Canadian Coast Guard commissioner overseeing the response to the spill, said initial reports about the fuel leak were murky and there had to be an assessment.

"Was there a period of time when we weren't quite sure what we were dealing with? Absolutely. That's not atypical in this type of a scenario," he said.

Girouard said about 80 per cent of the bunker fuel spilled has been recovered.

"There is, at this point in time, no further product being released into the environment," he said.

"We're confident that we have our arms around any new spillage or leakage and will keep watching on that through the course of (Friday)."

The fuel spread over water and land in a purple-blue sheen and has prompted safety warnings from the city telling people to avoid downtown beaches and not to touch the fuel.

The Vancouver Park Board said city staff are patrolling English Bay, and Second Beach and Third Beach in Stanley Park, telling people to avoid the water until the health and ecological implications are clear.

Park Board Chairman John Coupar said in a news release that staff are "very concerned about the fallout of this oil spill on our pristine beaches."

The board says several water birds with oiled feathers were spotted in Stanley Park, but went back into the water before they could be examined.

Girouard said owners of the Marathassa will be on the hook for the costs related to the spill, and a team will soon be working on the legal claims process.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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