Boat runs aground in PAB harbour

After three days, fishing vessel Marc Olivier sails away largely unscathed

The FV Marc Olivier ran aground in Port aux Basques harbour in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday, May 7. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press Inc.

PORT AUX BASQUES – A crab fishing vessel from the Magdalen Islands, Québec, ran into a bit of trouble in the early morning hours last Saturday, May 7. There were reports of an injury to a crew member, though not serious.

Harbour Supervisor Nikita Roberts was among the first to be notified that the Marc Olivier had run aground at Point Pleasant.

“The first call I got was from the Coast Guard in St. John’s telling me that there was a boat aground and wondering if I can get eyes on it and if I can get some pictures of it for them,” said Roberts.

Roberts complied as best she could, given that the boat was on the far side of the harbour.

“It was pretty far away from me,” admitted Roberts. “I’m not exactly sure what happened for it to go over there. I guess accidents do happen, especially in boating.”

Roberts believes the crew member was not injured by the mishap.

“I think he sustained injury beforehand.”

Getting the Marc Olivier back into the water and on its way took a few days for several reasons.

“It takes time. The first thing – if a boat goes aground – the first thing they’re going to want to look at is if there are any environmental factors.”

That typically means an environmental assessment by the Coast Guard to determine that the vessel is not leaking any fuel or other contaminants that would necessitate a cleanup.

“Also factors such as the tide and the current come into play when trying to get a vehicle off. Also you need divers to go down and make sure the boat is actually okay to pull off,” explained Roberts.

Another factor was that the resources to do these things are not available locally.

“The Coast Guard that I was talking to was in St. John’s. The environmental part of Coast Guard is in St. John’s,” said Roberts.

There were no reports of any environmental concern as a result of the grounding. A bit closer, Bailey’s Marine Services, located in Kippens, dispatched divers to complete the necessary inspections and a tugboat pulled the Marc Olivier from the rocks once the tide proved favourable.

“We do have some divers locally, but not the ones that would be able to help with that I don’t think,” said Roberts.

The Marc Olivier was brought dockside for more assessment.

“It was damaged, but I don’t think it was damaged severely,” stated Roberts, who shared that this is the first time she’s had to deal with a boat running aground in her four years as Harbour Supervisor, but not the first time she’s witnessed such an incident.

“I was in the harbour when the (Marine Atlantic) ferry ran aground. I was in Scott’s Cove when it all happened.”

The Canadian Coast Guard, who responded to the initial call, released the following statement in response to email inquiries:

“At approximately 4:30 a.m. local time on May 7, 2022, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Maritime Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Port aux Basques received a report that the fishing vessel Marc Olivier had run aground in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We can confirm an on-board injury was reported; however, the captain of the vessel indicated no medical or rescue assistance was required.

“We immediately tasked the CCGS W.G. George from our Burgeo search and rescue station and a CCG Environmental Response team to the scene to conduct a site assessment and ensure the safety of those on board.

“The vessel owner had provided a response plan and had contracted a dive team and tug to assess and tow the FV Marc Olivier to a safe berth in Port Aux Basques.

“The Canadian Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for response to ship-source pollution in Canadian waters. We will continue to monitor the FV Marc Olivier to ensure a reasonable and appropriate response to mitigate the risk of pollution to the marine environment.”

The vessel, which was successfully retrieved after approximately three days on the rocks, has since departed.

Mayor Brian Button said the idea of having something in place in Port Aux Basques to assist with future potential mishaps is a conversation still to be had.

“This was kind of a unique situation, especially where this vessel ended up. I know in the past we, at one time, had a tugboat service here. It was located here in the area. That service has since ended as the person who ran that retired, so they closed up their service. Now, in the past, we’ve had some people that have come into the area that have provided both piloting and tugboat services that were here that came in on contract,” said Button. “Coastguard are usually, a lot of the time, here in our harbours. They’re here and they’re tied up with stuff, but this was not an ordinary scenario. It wasn’t something you normally see, but it’s a conversation, there’s no doubt. I don’t know how really how to address that yet. It isn’t a conversation this council has had. I don’t know about previous councils and if they’ve had this conversation.”

Button said most of these types of services are not available in every bay or port around the province.

“It’s good questions to ask, and questions to certainly try to find out the answers to. I guess when people look at that they try to have it located in certain regions so it can be sent out to service all different areas. If it’s serviced in Port Aux Basques, it wouldn’t necessarily be in Port Aux Basques when there can’t be one in every area.”

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