The nation’s newest measure for keeping our coast clean is back in the water.
The G.M. Penman is a 65-foot spill response vessel – the first of at least five new skimming vessels that will reside on our coast to respond to marine emergencies involving fuel or oil spills.
The Penman is owned and operated by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), which already has 40 response vessels in the water on our coast, but this new one is something special. It’s the first in a complete redesign of the fleet, according to WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry.
The company has a lot of watercraft that specialize in spill response, Lowry says, “and they’re not really identifiable out on the water. We’ve recognized that it’s important for people to know that there are spill response boats out there and what they’re doing – whether it’s training or an actual response – so all of our boats are being repainted to meet those specs and our new boats are getting that white, orange and blue to make them identifiable.”
The captain of the Penman, Bill Poustie, beams with pride as he speaks about the ship.
“She holds about 35 tons of product, she will skim up to about 49 tons an hour, she will do a sustainable speed of 23 knots … and she puts up a rather big wash, so you have to be very observant about who you’re going by,” Poustie says.
The vessel also holds 1,500 feet of Kepner boom – a self-inflating boom specifically designed for oil spill containment – it has a set of outrigger arms that swing out from the side to deploy another set of booms to act as a skimmer and it brings all the product right onboard through doors in the side of the hull.
Bruce Kempling owner of Ocean Pacific Marine Supply & Boatyard is equally proud of the work his team did getting the vessel ready to set sail. The vessel is relatively new, so it didn’t need a lot of work, but he’s happy to have been selected to do what needed doing.
“We did the sandblasting and painting the hull, putting zinc annodes on, all the numbers on the side for the draft marks, and then we have to get it in the water,” says Kempling.
It’s nice to see some of that money going to local companies like theirs, Kempling says, instead of having the work done overseas, for example.
The G.M. Penman is only the first of many vessels being added to the WCMRC fleet.
“We’re going to be adding 40 more vessels to the fleet as part of the Trans-Mountain expansion project,” Lowry says, along with five new fully-equipped response bases: Nanaimo, Sydney, Victoria, Beacher Bay, Port Alberni and Uclulet.
Captain Poustie, however, says he hopes they’ll never have to use their new infrastructure and equipment.
“We don’t want to see a spill,” he says. “You always hope these things never have to be used and this boat will just age away.”