Record $2.7 million fine for company causing oil spill in B.C.

Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC was recently sentenced in the Provincial Court of British Columbia, in Bella Bella, after pleading guilty to three charges of violating federal legislation, in connection with an October 13, 2016, spill from the vessel Nathan E. Stewart into Seaforth Channel near Bella Bella, British Columbia.

The company was sentenced to pay the following penalties:

  • $2.7 million for the offence of depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, in violation of the Fisheries Act;
  • $200,000 for the offence of depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds, in violation of the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994; and
  • $5,000 for the offence of failing to comply with the pilotage requirements under the Pilotage Act.

The $2.7 million penalty imposed under the Fisheries Act is the largest fine for the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish from a single spill. This penalty will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund and is recommended to be used toward the conservation of fish and fish habitat in the Central Coast region of British Columbia. The $200,000 penalty for the offence under the Migratory Birds Convention Act1994 will also be directed to the Fund.

On October 13, 2016, the tug boat Nathan E. Stewart ran aground at Edge Reef near Bella Bella, British Columbia, resulting in the release of approximately 107,552 litres (28,412 gallons) of diesel fuel and 2,240 litres (591 gallons) of lubricants. Both substances are deleterious to fish and migratory birds. Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC owned the Nathan E. Stewart.

The articulated tug-barge combo was on its way back to Vancouver from Alaska at the time of the incident. The fuel barge was empty, but the tug quickly began leaking diesel into the water. Seven crew members were on board, but no one was injured.

The tug and barge combo Nathan E. Stewart  (Photo Credit:  NORMAN FOX / FOR PNG )

Kirby Offshore Marine is the largest United States operator of coastal tank barges and towing vessels participating in the regional distribution of refined petroleum products, black oil, and petrochemicals. Kirby’s coastal fleet operates along the U.S. coastal network and calls on ports along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts, as well as ports in Alaska, Hawaii and on the Great Lakes.

As a result of the federal conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.