Imperial Oil is closing its Skidegate Landing marine fuel dock this spring, a decision which means boaters in the Skidegate/Queen Charlotte area will have to refuel in Sandspit or haul fuel to their boats.
The closure of the fuel dock will be “a real nuisance”, says Queen Charlotte resident Barb Rowsell, who operates the Anvil Cove, a 53′ charter sailboat.
Ms Rowsell says she will have to buy her own fuel tanks, fill them up at the fuel dump and truck the fuel to the wharf to fill the Anvil Cove.
“The majority of charter operators who operate in Gwaii Haanas are from off island,” she says. The closure will have a big impact on Queen Charlotte, she predicts, because off-island commercial charter operators will no longer come into the town.
Sandspit’s marine fuel costs 12 cents a litre more and the hours of operation are limited, adds Ms. Rowsell. “It’s prohibitive for us to go over there.”
Regional director Carol Kulesha is very concerned about the imminent closure. “I want to emphasis the importance to the community that we not lose any more infrastructure because this has far reaching affects,” she said.
In a recent letter to Imperial Oil Ms Kulesha said, “We are very concerned with the decision of your company to stop boat fuel sales at the Skidegate Landing facilityÂ… This service is an essential service and we feel that your decision has been made without an understanding of its far-reaching impacts.”
The closure will affect commercial and recreational boating in Skidegate and Queen Charlotte, Ms Kulesha said in the letter. The closest alternative fuel dock is Sandspit, which will add an extra three hours to fishing vessels’ turn-around time. For large boats it will be inconvenient, but the trip from South Graham Island to Sandspit will be impossible for many smaller boats, especially in stormy weather. And anything that affects boaters will affect the whole economy of the area, says Ms Kulesha.
Mike Racz of Queen Charlotte runs a seventeen and a half foot boat. However, the closure doesn’t mean much to him because he chooses to pack fuel down to his boat from the gas station. He says he’s usually boating to the west coast to fish, and he doesn’t want to go in the opposite direction for fuel. Mr. Racz says he knows very few small boat operators who use the Skidegate Landing fuel dock.
The company decided to close the fuel dock because of safety and environmental concerns, says spokesperson Hart Searle.
“At least one customer that I know of actually fell into the water while re-fueling,” says Mr. Searle.
The dock was originally designed to handle large tankers and barges delivering fuel to the bulk plant, said Mr. Searle. It was not designed for retail traffic. The dock is open to the elements and can be dangerous. “We bear the responsibility for operating that dock in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, and that is difficult to do because of the physical configuration of the dock,” he said.
“We are certainly well aware of community concerns about closure of the facility,” said Mr. Searle. The company plans to meet with Ms Kulesha in the next few weeks. Mr. Searle said Imperial Oil wants to have a constructive dialogue about this in a way that ensures the company is taking the right steps and doing the right thing.
Mr. Searle says Imperial Oil is committed to continuing to provide fuel from its bulk plant in Skidegate Landing.
Ms Kulesha said people who are concerned about the issue can write to Keith Eliasson, Division Sales Manager, Imperial Oil Ltd. 325/9495 50th St, Edmonton, Alberta T6B 2T4.
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