Tugboat recovery means anchorage is again open to larger vessels

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, March 13 2019

One of two tugboats which sank near Gabriola Island has been brought back to the surface, thanks to an order from Transport Canada.

Having the tugboat moved will mean a deep sea anchorage near the site will now be able to accommodate vessels up to 225m in length.

On October 6, 2014, the tugboat Samantha J was overcome/run over by the barge it was towing in the Northumberland Channel on the southwest side of Gabriola Island. The two members of the crew were able to escape to the barge without serious injury.

The Port of Nanaimo patrol vessel took two persons from the barge and transferred them to Emergency Health Services in Nanaimo.

The Samantha J ended up 215 feet underwater.

Rodney Grounds, Harbour Master for the Port, said the actual raising of the Samantha J was done by Global Diving and Salvage, a company based in Houston, Texas, with the crew and equipment coming out of Seattle.

He explained there has always been an anchorage at that particular location in the Northumberland Strait, open to vessels up to 225m in length.

“When the Samantha J sank in 2014, the Pacific Pilotage Authority put a restriction on that anchorage of 165m.”

Grounds said this was because the underwater tug was within the swing radius of the anchorage.

“There are not a lot of 165m vessels on the coast. That rendered it that we could only use it for vessels of a certain description. The most common smaller vessel is going to be 189m to 200m.”

The Samantha J was raised on March 1, 2019. Within days, the Pacific Achievement, a bulk carrier measuring 199m in length, was utilizing the anchorage.

A second tugboat remains on the ocean floor, north of where the Samantha J went down. On May 24, 2016, the two tugs Albern and C.T. Titan had been working in the log yards off Gabriola.

The Albern was 9.81m long, her gross tonnage was 9.43T. The Titan is 15.24m long, her gross tonnage is 53.91T. While returning to Nanaimo, the Titan veered off course and struck the Albern, causing it to overturn and sink. The crew of the Albern were rescued by the crew of the Titan. The Albern sits 300 feet underwater. Grounds said he is not aware of plans to bring the Albern up to the surface, saying that would require an order from the Transport Canada receiver of wrecks.