A diver is in the hull of a sea trawler this afternoon that’s sitting on the riverbed in Bridgewater after it sank Tuesday evening.
He has a camera with a powerful light and a microphone so that his supervisor can watch and listen to what he’s doing as he hooks up a line to the fuel tank. That line will empty the diesel into a pumper truck on the wharf beside the semi-submerged vessel.
Keith Laidlaw, senior response officer with the Canadian Coast Guard, said the water is about 5.5 metres deep and there’s a 1.5- to 1.8-metre tide range.
An employee with RMI Marine Limited of Eastern Passage said the diver could be underwater for up to a couple of hours at a time. Another diver is on standby for safety reasons, and the company also has a boat in the water in case help is needed.
The coast guard set up a mobile command post this morning and had a response boat in the water placing absorbent oil pads in the water and scooping them out as they each soaked up about one litre of fuel.
Laidlaw said it won’t be clear why the boat sank until it is raised. “It would have to be a hole that water came into (in) the engine room,” he said.
Laidlaw said he does not believe there has been any environmental damage because of the coast guard’s response in containing fuel.
He said the owner isn’t clear how much is in the vessel.
“We’ve had reports from the owner 1,000 gallons of diesel and 40 gallons of lube oils, up to 2,000 gallons of diesel so somewhere in between there we figure is the amount that we have on board.
“Any amount of product that gets into the environment is a concern to us, that’s why we have the absorbent boom around the vessel as well as a hard containment boom you see there.”
The ship’s Nova Scotia owner, whom Laidlaw won’t name, is responsible for paying for the cleanup. “He has been notified. He does understand what has been going on but he has not shown up.”
He said that is not common. “In most cases the owners are very responsible and looked after their vessels and they’ll hire appropriate agencies to respond for them.”
It will take at least today to pump the fuel out of the tank, Laidlaw said. “It’s a slow process because as we remove the fuel we have to fill the tank with water otherwise we could end up collapsing the tank.”
The diver is hooking a line up to the fill pipe on the fuel tank. There’s a 1.8-meter high vent on top of the tank that allows air in as fuel gets used.
“As we suck fuel out of the tank from the fill pipe water will be sucked in through the vents and down into the tank” to prevent it from collapsing, Laidlaw said.
Once the fuel is out, it will take a couple of days to stabilize the vessel, “bringing it up as much as we can, pumping out the stern of the vessel, pumping out the bow, … so that we can remove any other contaminants that are on board the vessel. … It’s a very slow process, we have to do it carefully.”
Once it is raised and the coast guard is sure it no longer poses a pollution threat, it is up to the owner to decide what he wants to do with it, Laidlaw said.