Richmond’s Shelter Island will be the new home for Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s (WCMRC) Fraser River response base.

WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry explained the primary role of the base is to be available to service spills in the Fraser River but also respond out in the South Coast shipping lane.

“The Fraser River base will be part of WCMRC’s enhanced response system and is designed to work in tandem with the base in Vancouver Harbour and all the other bases that are planned,” Lowry explained. “The enhanced system is designed to provide response within two hours in the Port of Vancouver and six hours outside of the port, pretty much anywhere along the shipping lane until the western entrance of the Juan de Fuca Strait.”

WCMRC announced in July 2018 that a Fraser River south arm location has been secured, with a lease agreement for land and water lot areas at Shelter Island. ”We we will be taking over some existing buildings that will be repurposed. One will be repurposed as a warehouse, another as office space,” Lowry added.

The Fraser River base is part of the largest-ever expansion of WCMRC’s response capacity, a $150-million investment by Trans Mountain in marine spill response enhancements in preparation for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP).WCMRC is adding 120 personnel, 43 new vessels and six new bases ranging between Vancouver Harbour and Port Alberni to provide enhanced coverage and faster response for British Columbia’s South Coast shipping lanes.

“So far we have signed leases for four locations — Vancouver Harbour, Fraser River, Nanaimo and Port Alberni,” Lowry said. “The signing of the leases is the first step for us. It allows us to go to construction tender as the next step.”

Response bases will also be located at North Saanich and Beecher Bay, both on Vancouver Island. In addition, WCMRC will station a large offshore support vessel at Victoria.

WCMRC, funded by 2,300 industry members including Trans Mountain, is the Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization for the West Coast. WCMRC will respond to any marine spill from ships and oil handling facilities — including laden tankers departing Trans Mountain’s Westridge Marine Terminal.

All new personnel, facilities and equipment will be in place several months before the first oil tankers associated with TMEP begin calling at Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet.

The Fraser River base will be home to six vessels and 11 full-time staff, mainly new hires. Some of the boats will be new, with others assigned from the existing WCMRC fleet.

WCMRC expects to begin repurposing the Shelter Island property in fall 2018. “The staffing complement based there will mostly be mariners, the majority will be deckhands,” Lowry said.

Vessels expected to be stationed at Shelter Island are:

  • MJ Green, a skimming vessel
  • Texada Sentinel, a landing craft
  • Sentinel 24, a work boat
  • A boom skiff, which is a water trailer that carries boom
  • Two mini-barges that would hold 40 tonnes of product; used for transfer storage of recovered product. In a response, these craft can shuttle between the skimming operation and a larger containment barge.