The rapid response of the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid last Friday afternoon was instrumental in preventing a potentially significant environmental incident off the west coast of Haida Gwaii. Despite not being designed for tow operations, the Gordon Reid was eventually able to secure and maintain a tow line and bring an incapacitated container ship 25 nautical miles off the coast until more suitable vessels arrived on scene. A remarkable operation executed in exceptionally dangerous conditions. The Russian Simushir, which had left Everett, Wash., and was bound for Russia, lost power late Thursday night.
Operating in the dark in strong winds approaching gale force and nearly 5-metre high waves, the crew of the Gordon Reid managed to connect a tow line on three separate occasions – all three times the line broke. The Gordon Reid was eventually joined by a U.S. tug, the Barbara Foss, and another coast guard vessel, the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The Barbara Foss took over tow operations and brought the Simushir to Prince Rupert Port early Monday morning.
In addition to towing the Simushir out of danger, the Canadian Coast Guard dispatched a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 19 Wing Comox to retrieve and transport the injured captain to Sandspit for medical treatment.