Shipping company charged over oil slick in Frobisher Bay

Transport Degagnés not aware any waste was dumped, president says


A Quebec shipping company has been charged with dumping waste into Frobisher Bay last September.

On May 10, representatives from Transport Desgagnés appeared in court in Quebec City to face charges filed by Transport Canada under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.

Transport Canada accused the company of breaking Section 4.1 of the act, which says “no person or ship shall permit the deposit of any waste in the Arctic waters … under any conditions.” Section 5.1a defines liability for any ship that contravenes Section 4.1 as a maximum fine of $100,000.

The charges were laid following an investigation into the origin and nature of an oil slick in Frobisher Bay first spotted by a First Air pilot on Sept. 25, 2001.

The slick was more than a kilometre long and 100 metres wide, and located about 10 kilometres down the bay from Iqaluit.

“To the best of our knowledge, we don’t think it was us,” said Louis-Marie Beaulieu, president of Transport Desgagnés.

Beaulieu said his company is conducting its own internal investigation into the matter.

“Our main duty here is to understand what happened.”

The hull of the Transport Desgagnés vessel was damaged earlier in the season, but Beaulieu said it was repaired and inspected before its trip to Iqaluit.

Before laying charges, pollution prevention officers must do an investigation, including the taking of samples, interviews and photos, said Clark Norris, manager of marine safety at Transport Canada in Edmonton.

The last charge filed in Nunavut under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was in 1985, when a tanker spilled fuel near Hall Beach.

Norris said he wouldn’t be surprised if Transport Canada received more reports of marine waste-dumping from the North.

“There’s a more heightening awareness and communications are better than they were years ago,” he said.

Norris said reports are generally investigated within 24 hours.

Transport Desgagnés and Transport Canada will return to court in the summer or early fall.

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