The Government of Canada has announced that it will be spending $5.7 million on an emergency contract in order to remove bulk fuel from the MV Schiedyk, a historic shipwreck in Nootka Sound off the coast of Vancouver Island.
The shipwreck was confirmed to be leaking oil and the source of a visible sheen on the surface of the water in Zuciarte Channel, near Bligh Island, back in the fall of 2020.
A technical assessment was conducted and the government has determined that immediate action to remove bulk fuel is necessary to protect Nootka Sound — an area rich in natural beauty, history, culture, wildlife, and in the traditional territory of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation.
During the technical assessment, two tanks containing heavy fuel oil — one tank with marine diesel oil, and one tank with mixed oil — were found onboard the vessel. According to the federal government, the amount of fuel is estimated to be 147 cubic metres based on the total volume of the tanks, however, that amount may be less if the internal tank walls have been compressed.
The $5.7 million in funding will pay for an emergency contract with Resolve Marine Group of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to remove the bulk fuel.
The government says that Resolve Marine will be utilizing a process called “hot tapping” to reduce the volume of fuel in the tanks.
“This process involves drilling a hole in the fuel tank from the outside, attaching a drainage valve, and pumping the fuel out of the tank through a hose attached to the valve,” reads a statement from the government.
“The hot-tap method has been used successfully on shipwrecks for many years, including in the case of the Manolis L in Atlantic Canada in 2018.”
The federal government notes that the hot tapping process creates minimal risk for a larger release of oil.
The Canadian Coast Guard says its Environmental Response crews are prepared to address any oil release should it arise and will remain onsite throughout the procedure.
“Wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels like the MV Schiedyk pose a threat to Canada’s vibrant oceans and coastlines,” said Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “Working with Resolve Marine Group and local companies the Canadian Coast Guard, in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation is taking necessary steps to keep the marine environment in Nootka Sound safe and healthy for today and future generations.”
Work to remove the fuel is scheduled to begin in mid-June and is expected to last “several weeks.”
The MV Schiedyk is a 147-metre (483 ft) cargo ship that sank on January 3, 1968 after it struck a submerged ledge on the south side of Bligh Island.