On March 21, 2006, BC Ferries vessel Queen of the North departed Prince Rupert on its routine 18-hour route to Port Hardy, through the Inside Passage. Just after midnight, the ship sailed off-course, ran aground at full speed at Gil Island, then sank. All but two of the 101 people aboard escaped the sinking ship safely.
WCMRC mobilized immediately upon being activated by BC Ferries, with a team of responders arriving on-scene early the next morning. Due to passenger rescue operations, WCMRC was delayed in assessing the situation or deploying equipment. The team established an Incident Command Post in Prince Rupert, about 110 km north of the sunken vessel. They chartered an aircraft to observe the spill and used a computer program called Oil Map to input information about weather, tides, oil type and other factors. This program created a model that predicted where the oil would travel over time and allowed the team to accurately predict how the spill would spread despite sometimes severe weather conditions.
The response team worked from equipment barges anchored at Hartley Bay and out of WCMRC’s Fisherman Oil Spill Emergency Team members’ fishing boats.