It was the moment that seemed like Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson been hoping and wishing for. An oil spill, soiling the shores of Vancouver. A “told ya so!” moment, by a guy who, I found, never wrote a letter to the Prime Minister or Premier to express fears, on behalf of his constituents, about pollution of any sort in English Bay or Coal Harbour.
This turned out to be a spill from a grain freighter named Marathassa. Port of Vancouver (as it rebranded on April 6) handles many more grain ships than oil tankers. Cruise ships, too. They all spew exhaust that pollutes the air and sometimes release sewage. They all contain fuel that could cause a major environmental disaster. We need not wait until the Kinder Morgan Alberta bitumen pipeline to Burnaby gets twinned or not.
I filed stories like this and this for the Vancouver Courier in the aftermath. There was fingerpointing aplenty among politicians and bureaucrats at all levels of government. What it demonstrated was an utter lack of planning and coordination among officials that the public pays very well to be on-duty to keep citizens safe and the environment clean.
I found out that there had been no exercise of any scale in the waters around Vancouver by municipal, regional, provincial and federal officials to practice for a marine disaster of any type. This, just five years after $900 million was spent on security and public safety for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Good news to report: this week, there have been multiple sightings of a migrating grey whale swimming in English Bay. One sailor captured images at sunset on video. And the mothballed Kitsilano Coast Guard base is set to reopen. No date announced yet.
To mark the occasion, below is the transcript of a 9-1-1 call from a member of the Canadian Coast Guard to the Vancouver Police Department, released under Freedom of Information.