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At least 167 litres of fuel detected near ship in Charlottetown Harbour, Coast Guard says

Earlier this week, drone footage showed a boom surrounding MV Ancier as it sat docked at Charlottetown in the mouth of the Hillsborough River. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
Earlier this week, drone footage showed a boom surrounding MV Ancier as it sat docked at Charlottetown in the mouth of the Hillsborough River. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian Coast Guard says an aerial survey detected about 167 litres of what it calls "non-recoverable fuel sheening on the water" of the Hillsborough River near MV Ancier this week.

This is the first time any estimate has been provided of the amount of fuel spilled in Charlottetown Harbour after the former Quebec ferry docked there on Jan. 12.

"Subsequent fixed-wing and helicopter surveillance flights of the area have not detected any fuel sheening or pollution," the Coast Guard told CBC News in an email late Friday afternoon.

"In addition to the surveillance flights, response crews have conducted shoreline surveys, with the most recent being on [Thursday], with no detection of sheening or pollutants on the water or shorelines."

The Coast Guard said the spill involved Dyed Marine Gas Oil (MGO) being loaded from tanker trucks onto MV Ancier, which was recently sold to a buyer who intends to scrap it in India.

"Currently there is no pollution being observed coming from the vessel or in the area of the vessel," the email said. "A dive survey of the hull, which was recently completed, has confirmed that there are no cracks in the hull or any leaks of pollution coming from the vessel.

" A suspect tank onboard the vessel was identified as the possible source of the leak and operations are almost complete to empty the tank of fuel."

What appears to be fuel spilled by the MV Ancier in January 2023.
What appears to be fuel spilled by the MV Ancier in January 2023.

What appears to be fuel related to the MV Ancier was seen Tuesday on nearby ice coating the Hillsborough River, a tidal estuary of the Northumberland Strait. (CBC)

There was no mention of any plans to clean up any of the oil that had spilled.

P.E.I. Shellfish Association president Bob MacLeod is worried about the potential impact on the nearby wild oyster and quahog fisheries.

MacLeod said any impact won't be clear until May 1, when the spring fishery opens and the ice has melted.

"When you see pictures of the — whatever it is on the ice, fuel or whatever — you [ask] what effect is it gonna have?" he said.

"When that ice melts, is that going to go back in the water at the time when the oysters are feeding? 'Cause the oysters are kind of dormant right now but come spring they'll start feeding. And if that ice melts in there, then it's going to be a spill all over again."

Residents of nearby Stratford and Mermaid reported seeing a sheen on the water and on ice in the river and harbour, as well as smelling a strong fuel odour in the area on Sunday.

'When that ice melts, is that going to go back in the water at the time when the oysters are feeding?' Bob MacLeod asks of small floes of ice with a visible oil sheen that were spotted in the Hillsborough River this week. He's the president of the P.E.I. Shellfish Association.
'When that ice melts, is that going to go back in the water at the time when the oysters are feeding?' Bob MacLeod asks of small floes of ice with a visible oil sheen that were spotted in the Hillsborough River this week. He's the president of the P.E.I. Shellfish Association.

'When that ice melts, is that going to go back in the water at the time when the oysters are feeding?' Bob MacLeod asks of small floes of ice with a visible oil sheen that were spotted in the Hillsborough River this week. He's the president of the P.E.I. Shellfish Association. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

On Wednesday, the province said the smell and sheen on the water remained, but officials were "confident there is no apparent risk to groundwater, shellfish resources or wildlife in the area."

"When they don't even know the amount that spilled for sure, to say [there's] no impact … I'm not buying it," MacLeod said Friday.

"There's a lot of people who make a living there, a lot of people."

Source of leak identified

The Coast Guard said Thursday that the ship's owner had contracted a third party to conduct "pollution response operations."

The Coast Guard added that a hazard response team would remain on scene until that removal has been completed, and would continue shoreline assessments to watch for further impacts in the area.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Transport Canada confirmed the federal department is also investigating the oil spill.

"The MV Ancier will be permitted to depart when Transport Canada inspectors deem the vessel compliant with oil pollution prevention regulations," the spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.

The Ancier was built in 1973. It operated as MV Vacancier on a CTMA passenger and vehicle ferry route between Montreal and the Magdalen Islands from 2002 to 2019.