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:
- Canadian Coast Guard
- Vancouver Coastal Health
- International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation
- Stanley Park Ecology Society
- Musqueam First Nation
- North Shore Emergency Management Office
- City of North Vancouver
- District of North Vancouver
- District of West Vancouver
- Oiled Wildlife Society
- Tsleil-Waututh Nation
- Western Canada Marine Response Corporation
- City of Vancouver
- Canada Shipping Federation
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Transport Canada
- Environment Canada
- Focus Wildlife
- British Columbia Chamber of Shipping
- Port Metro Vancouver
- Province of British Columbia (Ministry of Environment and Emergency Management British Columbia)
- Local sailors
Lead, M/V Marathassa Review
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:
- CCG used an inclusive approach to the Unified Command structure, bringing in other levels of government and non-governmental organizations, which was seen in a positive light by most;
- As the response progressed, Unified Command, under CCG leadership, became increasingly coordinated;
- Many partners were praised for their leadership abilities within Unified Command;
- The operational fuel oil spill clean-up was successfully executed by the WCMRC under the direction of the CCG. WCMRC skimmed fuel oil off the water throughout the night of Wednesday, April 8 and surrounded the vessel with a containment boom on Thursday, April 9, to prevent further pollution damage. On Thursday morning, it was estimated that approximately 2800L Footnote 7 of intermediate fuel oil remained on the water, and by Friday afternoon 5.9L remained;
- WCMRC took a proactive posture early on in the incident, and as a result was able to respond swiftly;
- Partners were supportive of the Area Response Planning (ARP) concept moving forward, including broadened engagement in the development of plans, and the ability to provide valuable information on environmental sensitivities and risks;
- Partners welcomed the opportunity to participate in meaningful engagement on ways to improve oil spill response and are prepared to continue to build these relationships;
- Provincial and municipal partners, and WCMRC are well versed in Incident Command System (ICS) and have offered to exercise and assist the CCG in its implementation of ICS; and
- Partners highlighted that the management of oiled wildlife was conducted effectively.
What could be improved:
- CCG should improve its communication protocols with partners to ensure accuracy of communications. A combination of factors such as uncertainty of roles and responsibilities, miscommunications, and technical difficulties, resulted in a delay in the response of 1 hour and 49 minutes;
- CCG did not have the initial capacity to stand up the ICP and Unified Command as they were demobilizing Pollution Response Officers (PRO) from the Brigadier General Zalinski operation Footnote 8 in Grenville Channel; therefore, the CCG contracted WCMRC to initiate the on-water response and provide ICP support;
- Information sharing on a common network was not possible due to Government of Canada electronic policies and protocols, which limited the effectiveness of the ICP;
- CCG is in its third year of a five year ICS implementation and has not yet reached full operational capacity. While this was widely acknowledged, it took several days for Unified Command to achieve an operational rhythm;
- Early alerting of the municipalities, First Nations, and stakeholders of the incident was delayed due to the low classification of the incident in the provincial alerting system. Some partners were notified of the incident via informal channels due to previous working relationships or were alerted by the heightened media attention;
- Many partners noted that the current ARP timelines do not align with the immediate need to engage partners in the development of an efficient and effective plan in Vancouver Harbour. Partners would like to see ARP timelines accelerated;
- The lack of a physical presence of Environment Canada impacted the effectiveness and efficiency of the Environmental Unit. Environment Canada’s on-site leadership in providing sound, independent scientific and environmental advice would have been greatly beneficial to this incident;
- Public communications from Unified Command was challenging as energy was focused on supporting government officials in media briefings, rather than ensuring key facts about the on-water operation were being shared with citizens and Unified Command partners; and
- In this incident, there appeared to be confusion among some partners regarding the roles and responsibilities of key partners in oil spill response.
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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