Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Oil from vessel that sank in 1968 on Vancouver Island to be removed: Fisheries Dept.

VICTORIA — The federal government is taking steps to remove bulk fuel from a vessel that sank in 1968 and is leaking oil off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says recent results of a technical assessment determined that immediate action is necessary to remove fuel from the vessel in order to protect Nootka Sound.

The Fisheries Department says in a release that in the fall of 2020, the shipwreck was confirmed to be the source of visible sheen on the surface of the water off Bligh Island Provincial Park.

It says that since then, the coast guard, B.C.’s Environment Ministry and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation have been leading a virtual incident command post to manage the response to reduce oil on the water.

A technical assessment has found two tanks containing about 146 cubic metres of heavy fuel oil, one with marine diesel oil and the other with mixed oil product on board the vessel, called the MV Schiedyk.

The federal government has awarded a $5.7-million contract to a Florida company that it says will use a process called hot tapping to reduce the volume of fuel by drilling a hole in the tanks and pumping out the fuel.

“Given the nature of the operation, there is a small risk of a larger release of oil,” the Fisheries Department says.

“Canadian Coast Guard environmental response crews are prepared to address this should it arise, and will continue to be on-site and ready to respond if necessary.”

The work is expected to start in mid-June and take several weeks.

The department says the 147-metre cargo ship built in Ireland struck a submerged ledge on the south side of Bligh Island in January 1968 before drifting down Zuciarte Channel and sinking to a depth of 122 metres.

It says that before the 34 crew members abandoned ship, oil was reported on the water but it’s not known how much oil escaped at that time.

Almost 40,000 kilograms of oil and oily waste has been recovered so far.

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