Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker CCGS Captain Molly Kool tows tanker Jana Desgagnes in Cabot Strait. In the background the CCGS Louis S St-Laurent is assisting with the difficult ice conditions by breaking a large field of ice so that the vessels can manoeuvre. (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard)

Canadian Coast Guard sends 2 icebreakers to help stranded oil tanker

The Canadian Coast Guard has dispatched two icebreakers to assist an oil tanker that has lost its steering in heavy ice in Cabot Strait off the southwestern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, officials said Friday.

MT Jana Desgagnes, a Canadian chemical and oil product tanker with 17 crew members on board, damaged its rudder in heavy ice on its way from Come by Chance, Newfoundland to Montreal, Quebec, said Serge Le Guellec, president of Transport Desgagnes, the Quebec-based owner of the tanker.

“The vessel is not in any immediate danger, at present there is no risk to crew safety and no pollution has been released,” said David Yard, Superintendent of Environmental Response with the Atlantic Region of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Yard said the Coast Guard was notified on Thursday morning that the tanker carrying about 8,000 cubic metres of petrochemical products in addition to its own fuel had sustained damage to its rudder and lost steering southwest of Port aux Basques.

The Canadian Coast Guard immediately dispatched it newest medium icebreaker CCGS Captain Molly Kool. The ice breaker arrived in the area on Thursday evening and established a towline to secure the Jana Desgagnes and to move the vessel further offshore, Yard said.

“The Captain Molly Kool has since released the tow but remains alongside the Jana Desgagnes, which is currently located approximately 15 nautical miles from Cape Ray in Newfoundland,” Yard said.

The Canadian Coast Guard also dispatched its heavy icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent to assist the Jana Desgagnes, Yard said.

“Ice conditions are pretty dense in Cabot Strait so vessels are sometimes becoming stuck in ice and we’re having to provide icebreaker escorts,” Yard said.

The Louis S. St-Laurent is now escorting a tug hired by Transport Desgagnes to tow the disabled tanker to Sydney, Nova Scotia, for repairs, Yard said.

Faced with difficult ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the tug is expected arrive on the scene Friday evening, he added.

“The Canadian Coast Guard is working with the captain and the owner of the tanker, who are implementing their response plan for the vessel,” Yard said. “We are working to mitigate any potential pollution.”

In addition to dispatching the two icebreakers, the coast guard has activated its own incident command post at the Canadian Coast Guard Environmental Response Centre in St. John’s and has mobilized a team of environmental response experts and equipment to Port aux Basques, Yard said.

But the German-built double-hulled tanker, its crew and the environment are not in any immediate danger, he repeated.

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