San Juan County Joins Islands’ Trust in Asking Canada for Sidney Salvage Tug

Submitted by San Juan County.

On January 26, San Juan County Council and the Islands Trust Council sent a joint letter asking the Canadian government to “facilitate the repositioning of one of Canada’s multi-mission emergency tugs.” [ETVs, also referred to as rescue tugs] in Sidney, British Columbia, to extend the protections offered by these vessels to the inland waterway corridor to Vancouver. Washington’s ETV stationed at Neah Bay is usually too far away to rescue ships that are crippled in Haro Strait, Boundary Pass and the southern Strait of Georgia.

“Our County Council and Islands Trust previously requested Canada to position an ETV in Sidney in May 2018. We are again requesting this action to reduce the risk of spills currently posed by unaccompanied vessels in transit to and from Canada” , said board member Jamie Stephens. “We believe that Canada can better utilize available emergency towing capabilities for spill prevention in the central Salish Sea as well as coastal waters. Our request is based on the current threat and not on future increases in shipping traffic, for which additional management measures to maintain security may be required,” Stephens added.

Recent studies by Canadian interests, San Juan County, and the Washington Department of Ecology collectively support the need for and feasibility of a VTE near Turn Point. These studies demonstrate:

• Used tugs cannot be relied upon for emergency response in the Central Salish Sea.

• A dedicated ETV stationed in Sidney could be effective in responding to disabled vessels in inland waters.

• The positioning of Canada’s two ETVs off the coast does not provide the necessary margin of safety for a rapid response in inland waters, such as the threats recently posed by the M/V Zim Kingston, which could have resulted in a large spill oil when it caught fire near Victoria.

• Canada’s two ETVs have been present in inland waters, moored in Victoria or Sidney for a total of 54 days in 2020, and could be reliably present for oil spill prevention if either them was repositioned.

• Washington’s Neah Bay ETV and a Canadian ETV could potentially maintain the protection of Canada’s west coast, reacting in time to prevent 90-95% of ships traveling a sufficient distance from the coast from running aground.

Last year, San Juan County conducted ship drift and response analysis to assess the effectiveness of an ETV hypothetically positioned at one of six Salish Sea ports in responding to calls. of distress in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass. The analysis identified the most efficient positions at Roche Harbor and Sidney, achieving around 80% efficiency over a range of sea conditions. by September 2023.

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