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Oil spill in Halifax Harbour

Well, I didn't listen to the news all weekend, so imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning and discovered that there had been a fuel oil spill in Halifax Harbour on Saturday. It's probably hard to imagine my surprise over the net, so we'll call it a 6 of 10 on the surprise meter. Here's a link to the CBC story on the spill. Let's probe further, shall we?

Which boat dumped the toxic goo into the Harbour? ASL Sanderling. This is the largest ship in Oceanex's fleet, if that means anything. Built in 1977 by Sasebo of Japan.

What caused the spill? Transport Canada's initial speculation is that the inner fuel tank on the container ship was corroded. This is a ship that does regular runs between Halifax and Corner Brook. It is flagged in Canada. Knowing how hard Transport Canada rides my friends in the sailing industry here, I find it rather surprising that a corroded fuel tank on a container ship which works continually within Canadian waters could escape their notice. Oh well.

Who owns the ship? (i.e. who should pay the cleanup charges and fine?): Oceanex. Oceanex bills themselves as "your Newfoundland connection" for shipping, but they are based in Montreal. You'll like that, Dan. Anyway, the president and CEO is Peter Henrico.

How bad is the spill? According to the NS DOE, Bunker C fuel oil is "generally not toxic to plant or animals" because it contains few volatile compounds. The US Coast Guard cites a minor risk to marine birds and fur-lined mammals who could get coated in the oil, but don't list it as a carcinogen nor as a danger to other marine life. So, it's not that bad, thankfully. Bunker C is fairly viscous, so it should be easy to clean up using booms and vaccuums. Lucky us.

Hopefully, Transport Canada will figure out how a corroded fuel tank could escape the notice of their inspectors (and the notice of Oceanex crew and their certifying authority, if any) and prevent such an accident in the future.

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