Reader takes issue with coastline letter

Dear editor,

Re: Time for feds to ensure our coastline is protected ( Letter to the Editor, Oct. 30)

Please allow me to point out some erroneous content in this letter; firstly, the m/v SIMUSHIR is a container vessel and not a tanker, and the sentence about “foreign ships…..need to be functional”  —  along with most of the concluding paragraph  —  make little sense.

I have never supported Stephen Harper nor his Conservative Party, but I am a retired shipmaster; my wife and I took a lot of interest in this maritime incident, as between us we spent four decades working on all types of merchant vessels, including supertankers. Like this letter from your regular contributor in Comox (E.A. Foster), there were countless other letters and extensive media coverage surrounding this incident that sounded like panic-stricken hyperbole, with overwhelming embellishment and misinformation. We read quite silly references to “fuel-laden vessel” ad nauseam; surely every writer, whether professional pundit or amateur scribbler, has to be aware that all ships, like cars, carry fuel to supply their engines.

On Friday, Oct. 17, newspapers, radio, television and their websites reported verbatim from the Haida spokesman that the vessel would go aground at 9.30 p.m.; he even had a rocky bay on Haida Gwaii picked out for the disaster to occur. At the time of all these reports, the vessel was harmlessly drifting parallel to or away from shore due to the current, and at no time was closer to land than 12 nautical miles. Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid was tethered to the vessel about 18 hours after the initial breakdown, larger Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard vessels arrived on scene around that same time.

Contrary to other reports that the US tugboat Barbara Foss had to travel 675 kilometres from its base in Neah Bay, Wash., it was dispatched from Prince Rupert where it had delivered a barge towed from Whittier, Alaska; the regular employment of this tug. Two other ocean-going tugs are also on call in Prince Rupert. Sunday night CTV National News anchor Sandy Ronaldo reported that the vessel had been towed safely to Prince Rupert after three days drifting off BC’s pristine coastline.

The drift-time had suddenly quadrupled, but at least she added that all crew were safe; the very first time I’d heard them mentioned. My wife and I would suggest in our learned yet humble opinion, that the Canadian Coast Guard did a great job; yet readily acknowledge that more ocean-going tugs would be very welcome along B.C.’s north coast.

Bernie Smith



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