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Decommissioned BC Ferries vessel sinks in Sechelt Inlet

Coast Guard and Sunshine Coast RCMP responded to an activated SOS beacon on Nov. 4.
The 62-year-old former BC Ferries vessel R.J. Breadner sank in Sechelt Inlet on Nov. 4.

An old decommissioned ferry sank over the weekend on the Sunshine Coast. 

At 7:04 p.m., the Sunshine Coast RCMP was notified of a distress call from the R.J. Breadner in Sechelt Inlet near Carlson Creek, where there was an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) activation. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) was requesting police assistance because the Canadian Coast Guard vessel tasked with responding needed more time to get to the location of the incident.

When the Coast Guard vessel CCGS Cape Caution (from the Powell River lifeboat station) arrived, they searched the area and discovered a sunken decommissioned ferry. No one was on board, and the search concluded, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DF) communications told Coast Reporter. They recovered the activated SOS beacon onboard a dingy on the surface, Const. Karen Whitby told Coast Reporter. 

When contacted by police, the boat owner said he had been at the boat “as recently as a week prior,” the police file notes, said Whitby. No further police action is required. 

While RCMSAR Station 12 (Halfmoon Bay) was initially tasked to assist, it was then decided the volunteers wouldn't respond because there was no one at risk, and they were not equipped to dewater a vessel of the R.J. Breadner's size.

The morning after the sinking, a “non-recoverable sheen” was visible surrounding the vessel and extending into the inlet, DFO said. That day, a local contractor was hired by the Canadian Coast Guard to set up a containment boom around the sunken vessel to contain any more pollution. While the Coast Guard is the lead response agency for pollution incidents in marine waters, vessel owners maintain responsibility.

“According to the owner, the vessel was non-operational and none of the fuel tanks had measurable amounts of fuel in them, however some residual fuel remains,” DFO said. The Coast Guard continues to work with the vessel owner to “ensure an appropriate response to minimize environmental impacts and determine next steps” and a contractor will conduct an underwater assessment and plug fuel vents. 

While the vessel is considered stable in its current position, mariners are asked to avoid the Sechelt Inlet area north of Carlson Point and active work and assessments continue. 

The R.J. Breadner was built as a passenger and car ferry in Vancouver in 1961 and is a sister ship to the Nimpkish. According to Nauticapedia, it was formerly known as the Garibaldi (I), the Westwood (I) and the Albert J. Savoie.  It was inspected by Transport Canada in 2017 when it was anchored next to Poise Island. According to the Transport Canada registration database, the R.J. BREADNER (O.N. 314008) is no longer registered in Canada, and its status was “closed” on March 23, 2015.