Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coast Guard unprepared for oil spills, audit reveals

Lacks training, equipment to fulfil duties

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OTTAWA -- The Canadian Coast Guard lacks the training, equipment and management systems to fulfil its duties to respond to offshore pollution incidents such as oil spills, an internal audit reveals. The audit paints a sobering picture of an agency that would play a key role in Canada's response to a major oil spill off the world's longest coastline. In the event of a spill leaking from a ship, as occurred in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, the Coast Guard would be the lead federal agency in the cleanup efforts. However, the audit found Coast Guard employees are trained on an "ad hoc, regional basis," with no national training strategy. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is relying on aging equipment and management controls are "either out-of-date, not functioning or not in place."

"As such, assurance cannot be provided that the conditions exist to enable (environmental-response) services to be provided in a national consistent manner," states the audit.

Under Canada's patchwork response regime, the lead agency would depend on the nature and location of a spill. Off the East Coast, joint federal-provincial petroleum boards would oversee the cleanup of a spill at a drilling rig, while the National Energy Board would handle that responsibility in Arctic waters. But the Coast Guard would take the lead in any spill from an oil tanker, or a "mystery spill" whose origin is unknown.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 27, 2010 A13

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