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Capsized tug now out of the water at the mouth of B.C.'s Fraser River

Last Updated Aug 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm PDT

Workers watch as a capsized tugboat is lifted from the Fraser river between Vancouver and Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

VANCOUVER – A tug that capsized and sank at the mouth of the Fraser River off Vancouver has been pulled from the water and officials say the next step will be determining how much fuel leaked from the vessel.

The 19-metre-long George H. Ledcor was hauling a loaded gravel barge on the north arm of the Fraser River not far from Vancouver International Airport when it capsized late Monday.

David Hoff with Ledcor Group, the operator of the tug, said Thursday that the vessel was lifted out of the water and crews would be draining potentially contaminated water from its hull.

“It’s called dewatering, so they will be pumping the water that is inside the tug to a special container on the barge,” Hoff said in a phone interview.

The barge, a large crane, divers and other specialized crew were needed to complete the operation, which officials had initially hoped would have wrapped up within a day of the sinking.

Hoff said the vessel’s hull would also need to be carefully checked.

“The dewatering will take a while and they will have to go in and inspect for damage and inspect the vessel before they start to move it,” he said.

If there’s no damage, the tug should float on its own, said Hoff, but environmental concerns and numerous approvals would be required before it could be moved upriver to a shipyard.

It remains unclear how much of the diesel fuel the tug was carrying was released into the river. A strong smell of diesel was noticeable near the spill site on Tuesday.

Dan Bate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said the amount of diesel lost is expected to be much lower than the 22,000 litres the tug was capable of carrying.

“We won’t have a better sense of that number until the tanks in the vessel are measured which will allow us to get a better number on the actual volumes leaked,” he said.

Hoff said earlier that as much as 600 litres of diesel had been recovered in the first 24 hours after the accident and Bate said diesel is considered to be a lighter fuel that can evaporate quickly.

The Transportation Safety Board said it also deployed a team of investigators to the site to gather information and assess the incident.

The board investigates marine occurrences to advance transportation safety, but does not assign blame or determine civil or criminal liability. (The Canadian Press, News1130)