Huge 'surprise' oil response drill in Nanaimo

By Ian Holmes
September 21, 2016 - 4:20pm Updated: September 21, 2016 - 8:41pm

NANAIMO — The shortage of a key piece of equipment will be addressed following a first of its kind oil spill response drill in Nanaimo's harbour.

The surprise drill involved a two-day scenario Tuesday and Wednesday involving a cruise ship landing hard, sending oil into the Nanaimo Harbour. It was ordered by an industry funded company contracted by Transport Canada to respond to west coast oil spills.

Nanaimo Port Authority Harbour Master Captain Edward Dahlgren was pleased with the response, but says they did fall short on booms to contain the oil.

“We hit the initial target, but then to protect sensitive areas and heritage areas we were scrambling and having to re-utilize equipment,” says Dahlgren. “What happened if we had another spill tomorrow? Everything we've got is in the water.”

Dahlgren says the Port is in budget discussions now and says more booms will be purchased in light of this drill.

He adds that another need arising from the drill are additional portable tanks to store contaminated materials like boots and clothing.

Dahlgren says the drill affected inner harbour boat and air traffic. A debrief in a couple weeks will go over in further detail strengths and weaknesses of the exercise, he says.

The drill involved several government and private marine contractors and was ordered by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

Michael Lowry, communications manager for Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, says he was a bit nervous about how the surprise drill would unfold.

“I think we were all very pleased with how it went, both on our end in terms of activating our own vessels, but also in testing the strength of our contractor network. We are very pleased with how our contractors responded."

Lowry says their company is equipped with 11 vessels on Vancouver Island and 32 on the west coast in three different classifications – basic work boats, mobile skimmers and barges.

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