Sunken Barge Port McNeill Boom
(the sunken Alaskan Plaza, surrounded by boom | photo courtesy the Canadian Coast Guard)

An 80-foot, 2-story steel barge sank into the water after breaking free from the dock at Port McNeill on Christmas Day.

The Alaska Plaza, an accommodation barge normally used in heli-logging operations, sank at the dock with approximately 3000 litres of diesel fuel on board.

The Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response Duty Officer, along with local first responders including Port McNeill Fire Department and RCMP, responded to the sinking at around midnight on December 25th.

Crews contracted by the owner from Western Canada Marine Response have deployed a containment boom around the sunken barge.

Diesel is bubbling up from the barge in small patches, but a representative for the Coast Guard says only minimal amounts of non-recoverable sheen have been seen outside of the boom, meaning efforts at containment have been successful.

Drifting fuel containers from the barge have been brought ashore for proper disposal.

A second barge also broke free from the dock the same evening, and was caught on the Port McNeill breakwater.

The second barge, the 50-foot Sea Lander, has no fuel on board. A local tug has been hired to try to remove it from the breakwater when weather permits.

Sea Lander barge on Breakwater
(the Sea Lander barge on the breakwater | photo courtesy the Canadian Coast Guard)

Rough weather is believed to have been a contributing factor in the incident.

Environment Canada data from the monitoring station at Port Hardy shows wind speeds over 50 km/h at points throughout the evening of December 24 and into the morning of December 25.

On Monday an on-water assessment was undertaken to plug vents on the Alaska Plaza and to assess the structure of the sunken barge.

Plans are underway in coordination with federal and political partners, local First Nations, and other agencies to have the barge removed in the next week.

Subscribe to the Victoria Buzz newsletter to receive the latest news, events and more directly to your inbox. Every day.