Monday, April 03, 2006

Queen of the North Oil Spill Incident: The Latest Scoop

The oil spill response operation in respect of the Queen of the North ferry incident has indeed wound down, as reported in the previous posting on this blog. Provincial officials are now instituting a long-term monitoring program, so that they will know in future, for instance, if any oil reaches the shoreline.

Nevertheless, oil is said to continue to leak from the sunken vessel in very small amounts. The mini-sub that went down and examined the wreck eight days ago found leaks in three places, releasing marble-sized drops. Some oil is therefore still reaching the surface, taking the form of a rainbow-coloured sheen which is only visible from the air. This oil which is being released is not thought to be causing environmental problems at the present time, and the options for cleanup are few and far between.

Provincial officials have no idea how much oil has escaped, but suspect that a lot of the diesel fuel involved in the initial spill was released when the vessel impacted the seabed with what was undoubtedly a great big thump. Not only is the bottom of the vessel not visible; in fact, the sunken hulk is said to be buried in silt up to its scrape boards.

It now appears that the Queen of the North had a total of ten tanks on board. How many of these might have been ruptured or damaged is also anyone's guess.

So, all in all, from a provincial perspective at least, the response operation is thought to have gone relatively smoothly, serving as a dress rehearsal for larger spills, and providing authorities with an idea as to what the logistical and resource requirements might be in the event of, say, a supertanker catastrophe involving crude oil.

It will be recalled that Enbridge has plans to bring tar sands crude oil right by Gil Island, where the QOTN spill occurred, within the next four years or so.


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