APTN National News
The crew of a Russian-flagged container ship drifting off Haida Gwaii’s west coast is trying to repair its stalled engines before the situation turns into a potential environmental incident, says a spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokesperson Dan Bate said if the crew can’t restart its engines, then the situation could get tricky. Bate said there are preparations to try and intercept the ship and have it towed or the crew may be forced to abandon the vessel before it runs aground.
“Currently it is a search and rescue case, it is not an environmental response issue. There is a risk of it, but not at this point,” he said.
The container ship, called the Simushir, was travelling from Port Angeles in Washington State. It lost power at about 1:30 a.m. local time Friday, according to the Council of the Haida Nation. The statement said that the ship is adrift about 19 kilometres west of Gowgaia Bay.
The container ship is carrying mining equipment along with 500 metric tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 metric tonnes of diesel.
Bate said he did not know where the ship was headed before its engines lost power.
“It is a developing scenario,” said Bate.
Acting Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall, with the Canadian Force’s joint rescue co-ordination centre in Victoria, told The Canadian Press that there were 11 passengers on board and a helicopter was dispatched to remove the ship’s captain, who is injured.
The U.S. Coast Guard has a helicopter on standby, said MacDougall.
MacDougall said heavy winds were expected Friday and there are concerns the vessel could run aground
The Haida Nation statement said two tug boats were also sent from Alaska and Prince Rupert, B.C., to try to intercept the ship, but the vessels are still about 20 hours from the location.
The Haida Nation said it was setting up a command post in Old Masset to deal with what it calls a “dire situation.”
“The Haida Nation’s worst fear is coming true,” said Haida Nation President Peter Lantin, in a statement. “Our priority is to minimize the impact on our homeland and get our people on-site to start dealing with the grounding. We’ll deal with the politics of the situation later.”
The Haida Nation believes if the current weather forecast holds, the ship will run aground.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said on Twitter it was monitoring the situation along with Transport Canada and the Canadian military.
-with files from The Canadian Press