Half-century-old ship wreck leaking oil into B.C. marine park now cleaned, coast guard says

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Yellow boom is seen on site near Bligh Island, B.C., where a 53-year-old shipwreck was leaking oil into the Pacific Ocean in December 2020. (Supplied by Spill Response B.C. - image credit)
Yellow boom is seen on site near Bligh Island, B.C., where a 53-year-old shipwreck was leaking oil into the Pacific Ocean in December 2020. (Supplied by Spill Response B.C. - image credit)

A half-century old ship wreck leaking oil into one of B.C.'s most pristine natural coastal areas since at least last December has now had any residual oil in its hull cleaned out and is stable, according to the Canadian Coast Guard.

In a written statement Monday, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said approximately 60 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and diesel sitting in the hull of the MV Schiedyk since Jan. 3, 1968 was successfully removed from the hull.

The 147-metre cargo ship still rests on the ocean floor on the east side of Bligh Island, in an ecologically sensitive marine park area about 70 kilometres northwest of Tofino, B.C.

On that day more than 50 years ago, the MV Schiedyk hit an underwater ledge then drifted east and sank to a depth of 120 metres into the Zuciarte Channel.

Supplied by Spill Response B.C.
Supplied by Spill Response B.C.

All 34 crew members abandoned ship and, at the time, oil was observed leaking into the ocean. Officials never figured out how much heavy oil and fuel had leaked out.

In December 2020, after several reports of a stubborn, persist oil sheen on the marine park ocean surface, crews rushed in to find the source.

"Due to the depth of the MV Schiedyk, [crews] used remotely operated vehicles to drill holes into the vessel's four fuel tanks and secure a drainage valve with a hose attached for pumping operations," the ministry said.

Spill Response B.C.
Spill Response B.C.

A U.S.-operated marine company removed the heavy fuel oil, injecting hot water into the tanks to liquefy the oil within, the ministry said.

The company then pumped the oil and water mixture to the surface onboard a 74-metre offshore supply ship.

The Canadian Coast Guard said its own crew, as well as the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, were on the water to respond to any oil released, alongside members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation.

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