Federal Industry Minister James Moore and a senior Canadian Coast Guard official have defended the response to a fuel spill from a freighter in Vancouver Harbour.
Roger Girouard, assistant commissioner for the western region of the Canadian Coast Guard, said Friday afternoon that containing and cleaning up 80 per cent of the spilled bunker fuel within 36 hours “represents an amazing success in oil pollution cleanup.”
Moore shot back at Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Premier Christy Clark, who held their own news conferences earlier Friday. Both called the six-hour delay before containment booms were placed around a grain freighter an unacceptable delay.
“The cleanup is still ongoing and the facts are still coming in,” Moore said. “I think it’s highly inappropriate for any politician to start pointing fingers and trying to score political points and making jabs at other levels of government without knowing all the facts.”
Girouard said citizen reports of pollution in Vancouver harbour come in to the Coast Guard frequently, and it was not until about 8 p.m. Thursday that an aerial assessment determined a response was required. Identifying the ship and working in the dark to have booms in place by midnight allowed crews to contain “the lion’s share of the oil before it hit the beach,” he said.
Four oil-contaminated birds have been collected for treatment and one reported sighting of a seal in distress had not been confirmed by Friday afternoon. Cleanup crews doubled in the first 24 hours, with assessment of beached oil to determine the safest way to clean it up ongoing, he said.
Girouard rejected suggestions that the 2013 closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base hampered the response. Kitsilano was a search and rescue station with only 100 metres of boom material available, and it took more than 400 metres of boom to contain the Marathassa, a new freighter on its first voyage.
Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau issued a statement Friday morning, blaming Conservative government cuts for delays and vowing to reopen the Kitsilano station if he wins an election scheduled for this fall.
Transport Canada is investigating to see whether a malfunction of ship equipment caused the bunker oil to be released in the harbour.