Independent Review of the M/V Marathassa Fuel Oil Spill Environmental Response Operation

Table of Content


Acknowledgements and List of Stakeholders

This report was prepared to understand the key factors of the incident. Some partners identified broader issues that, due to time constraints, could not be addressed.

The report could not have been researched, compiled and written without the dedicated assistance of the partners in Unified Command. Unified Command partners’ unwavering support during response efforts throughout this incident is recognized and appreciated.

I would also like to thank the Secretariat who contributed endless hours to this review.

Our Review partners included:

Signature électronique de John Butler

John Butler,
Lead, M/V Marathassa Review

Executive Summary

At 16:48PST Footnote 1 on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 the sailing vessel Hali observed a sheen of oil in English Bay and reported it to the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The CCG managed the response and clean-up operation with support from key partners, including Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), other federal departments, other levels of government and non-governmental organizations. Although the Captain and representatives for the M/V Marathassa initially denied responsibility, it was subsequently determined in the early morning of April 9, 2015 that the M/V Marathassa had discharged an unknown quantity of intermediate fuel oil (suspected to be IFO 380 Footnote 2) into English Bay on April 8.

This was an operational discharge of persistent fuel oil with very high consequences. Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) is a large, multi-user commercial gateway with on average 20 Footnote 3 large deep-sea vessels at anchorage or terminals at any given time, representing an important economic hub for Vancouver and Western Canada. As such, it is essential that oil spills are prevented and/or cleaned up quickly and efficiently to ensure continued operation of the port. Additionally, public safety and health risks are an important consideration, as English Bay is surrounded by a large urban population who regularly use the parks and beaches of the cities. Oil spills can also have detrimental effects on the marine environment, which could impact wildlife, marine mammals and fisheries populations.

Due to the complexity of this incident, the Commissioner of the CCG initiated a review for the purpose of identifying what worked well and what could be improved. The purpose of the review is to identify the key facts that took place following the discharge of fuel oil on April 8, from the first notification to CCG to the closing of the Incident Command Post (ICP). The Terms of Reference is attached in Annex A. The report, however, will not examine the nature of the spill or cause of the spill, as these circumstances are the subject of an ongoing Transport Canada (TC) investigation.

CCG’s Western Region, which encompasses the entire coast of British Columbia (BC), receives approximately 600 pollution reports each year, approximately 40 Footnote 4 of which occur in the port, and approximately 10 Footnote 5 of which require an on-water recovery. CCG and the WCMRC regularly address these spills in their daily operations. The M/V Marathassa on-water recovery and clean-up operation is an atypical event for the CCG or WCMRC. In this case, the response and clean-up lasted a total of 16 Footnote 6 days. Skimming of the fuel oil was conducted immediately and completed on day four, the polluting vessel was boomed in the early morning on April 9, and shoreline clean-up continued until day 16. There was minimal impact on the public from a health and safety perspective; however, Environment Canada (EC) estimated that approximately 20 birds were affected. Ongoing effects are being monitored by the Project Management Office (PMO), which was established following the close of the ICP. Activities of the PMO were not considered as part of the review.

Partners within Unified Command and other industry partners were invited to participate in the review to provide their perspective. Based on these discussions, the report identifies a number of areas that worked well, and highlights a number of areas that could be improved.

What worked well:

What could be improved:

There are 25 recommendations identified in this report for the CCG and partners’ consideration. The intention is to present recommendations that improve the oil spill response regime for Canadians and have been noted by many partners. The observations, analysis and recommendations are contained in the report and summarized in the conclusion.

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