The grounding took place on October 13, 2016. Namely, the tug was going to the Port of Vancouver pushing an empty tank barge. When the incident happened there were no injuries, but around 29,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants were spilled. The barge was disconnected from the tug, while the latter remained partially submerged for about a month.
After conducting an investigation report into the incident, the US National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the probable cause of the grounding was the second mate falling asleep while on watch.
Due to the oil spill, Kirby proceeded to changes, including an audible alarm when a navigator fails to acknowledge a visual warning, new policies for advancing crew members, enhancments in its mariner licensing and credential verification process, as well as a new fatigue awareness and recognition campaign.
However, the oil spill had already managed to impact an area for fisheries that feed the Heiltsuk Nation and support its local economy. For this reason, the Heiltsuk Nation filed a civil lawsuit against Kirby in October 2018, asking for compensation for commercial clam harvesting losses, communal food harvesting losses and cultural losses.
Before the court found Kirby guilty, the company had already pleaded guilty to three criminal counts regarding the 2016 marine accident. These were:
- Depositing a substance harmful to migratory birds;
- Depositing a harmful substance in water frequented by fish;
- Proceeding in a compulsory pilotage area not under the conduct of a licensed pilot or the holder of a pilotage certificate.
What is more, sources report that the Heiltsuk Nation is also challenging Canada for only allowing compensation for what it calls 'pollution damage.' This does not cover the Heiltsuk Nation's seafood harvesting and cultural losses.
Meanwhile, the Heiltsuk Nation is working to restore the affected regions and create a new trout hatchery to boost food security and its local economy.