The Kirby Offshore Marine tug that spilled thousands of gallons of diesel after running aground near Bella Bella, British Columbia, last month was lifted from the seafloor to a barge on Monday.
Salvage operations for the Nathan E Stewart were repeatedly hampered by weather and rough sea conditions at the entrance to the Seaforth Channel, where the tug and barge DBL 55 ran hard aground on Oct. 13. The empty barge was removed within days, but the damaged tug is estimated to have leaked approximately 29,000 gals. of diesel fuel and nearly 600 gals. of other fluids into the surrounding waters.
The 300’x100’x18’ crane barge DB General, operated by Poulsbo, Wash.-based General Construction Company, lifted the tug from the water on Monday, first raising it to deck level to drain, then placing it on a barge for removal. The DB General is equipped with a 700-ton capacity Clyde 52 main crane.
“We are relieved that the dirty tug is off the seafloor and on its way to being removed from Heiltsuk waters, but this is only the beginning for our community,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor for the local Heiltsuk First Nation. “After the outside world stops paying attention, the Heiltsuk people are left to clean up the mess.”
The Hieltsuk manage traditional fisheries in the ecologically sensitive region, part of the Great Bear Rainforest. Environmental concerns about tank vessels transiting the Inside Passage have been brought to the forefront as a result of the spill, and last week Canadian officials announced a $1.5 billion plan to to upgrade marine safety systems and develop a new oil spill response strategy.