Simple changes could reduce the growing risk of an oil spill in the Skeena Estuary

The Skeena river travels 570km, through the traditional territory of the Tsimshian, Gitxsan, and Wet'suwet'en people. At its mouth lies a unique and dynamic ecosystem, the Skeena Estuary, a vital habitat for a diversity of species. This habitat is particularly well known for its importance to Pacific salmon, and the substantial  food web that these fish support. Humans are very much a part of this food web, salmon runs in the Skeena support robust commercial, recreational, and First Nations fisheries that provide a livelihood for coastal communities and omega-3 rich protein to the global food supply

The Skeena Estuary is adjacent to the Port of Prince Rupert, one of the fastest growing ports in North America, now the third largest port in Canada. As industry continues to grow in such an ecologically and culturally significant area precautions must be taken. Unfortunately the risks of an oil spill that come with increased vessel traffic have not been appropriately mitigated. Anchor dragging incidents are alarmingly common in Prince Rupert Harbour compared to the frequency just south at the port of Vancouver. During each anchor dragging incident the large vessel is not in full control, presenting the risk of the vessel running aground on rocks, causing damage to the vessel and possibly a catastrophic spill in close proximity to vital habitat. Not only oil tankers face this risk; ordinary cargo bulk carriers have fuel tanks which If breached, could spill ½ million to 5 million liters of bunker fuel oil.

Fortunately, there are simple precautions that can be taken to mitigate this risk! TBuck hired Brookes Bell (since 1903) Master Mariner to identify steps that would reduce anchorage risks for large vessels traveling in and out of the port. Things for the Prince Rupert Harbour Authority to consider include:

  •       Directing ships to leave the inner harbour when high winds are forecast.
  •       Warn ships of poor holding ground in the inner harbour.
  •       Provide a clear option for ships to leave the inner harbour when unsafe to remain.

Now is the time for the Port Authority to direct more focus on this issue.

Send a letter to: Prince Rupert Port Authority Board of Directors c/o [email protected]  - let them know you’re concerned about the anchor dragging risks

Read the full summary document of the assessed anchor dragging risk here

More on the work TBuck has done to prevent oil spills in the Skeena Estuary