On the morning of Oct. 17, the Canadian Coast Guard contacted the Council of the Haida Nation to mobilize vessels to assist with a marine emergency. A 135-metre Russian registered container had lost power and was drifting 12 miles off the coast of Gowgaia Bay carrying 500 metric tonnes of bunker fuel and 60 metric tonnes of diesel. Based on calculations, the ship could run aground within nine hours.
“It’s absolutely pristine out there,” Guujaaw, former president of the Haida Nation, told The Tyee’s reporter David Ball. “It’s a world heritage site in that region.”
Adding to the ship’s difficulties was the condition of its captain, who had been injured. The Council of the Haida Nation set up an emergency command centre.
“The Haida Nation’s worst fear is coming true,” said President kil tlaats ’gaa Peter Lantin. “Our priority is to minimize the impact on our homeland and get our people on-site to start dealing with the grounding. We’ll deal with the politics of the situation later.”
A large U.S. oceangoing tugboat was dispatched, which took nearly 14 hours to reach the ship. In the meantime, the coast guard attempted to take the ship further out to sea and away from the jagged rocky shoreline of Haida Gwaii. On three occasions the coast guard tried to attach a tow rope to the ship, and all three times the ropes snapped.
Said B.C. Premier Christy Clark “We’re carefully monitoring the situation off Haida Gwaii, and actively supporting the federal response.” The tug eventually was able to secure the vessel and towed the disabled ship to port in Prince Rupert after a number of tense hours. Tweeted Liberal MLA for Richmond-Steveston John Yap “#Ecofearmongers can stand down. Russian cargo ship towed away from BC coast ending disaster fears.”