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Fuel tanker runs aground in Canadian Arctic: coast guard

by Staff Writers
Ottawa (AFP) Sept 2, 2010
A fuel tanker has run aground in Canada's far north, carrying nine million liters (2.4 million gallons) of diesel fuel but Canadian officials said Thursday none has spilled into the Arctic waters.

The ship struck a sandbar in the famed Northwest Passage, southwest of the town of Gjoa Haven in Canada's Nunavut territory, on Wednesday. It was carrying fuel to resupply remote communities in the region.

Authorities and the ship's owner Woodward's Oil would attempt to float it off the sandbar.

"At this point in time there is no pollution and no damage to the vessel," said Larry Trigatti, an environmental response official with the Canadian Coast Guard.

He also told AFP that the plan was to offload or move some of the cargo to get the vessel back afloat.

Last week, a cruise ship struck an uncharted rock in the same waterway, forcing the evacuation of the ship carrying more than 110 passengers and crew.

That crash occurred late Friday as the ship Clipper Adventurer set out from Kugluktuk, Nunavut for a 12-day voyage through the passage.

None of the tourists onboard were injured, said the tour operator Adventure Canada, but it took two days for the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen to arrive at the scene, prompting calls for Canada to beef up its search and rescue capabilities in the far north.

With the acceleration of Arctic ice melt, interest in the region has soared. Shrinking ice has opened up sea navigation, and could give oil rigs improved access to the sea floor.

Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage, however, is disputed by the United States.

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States claim overlapping parts of the region believed to be rich in hydrocarbons, and are rushing to gather evidence in support of their respective claims.

Environmentalists, Inuit groups in Canada and political factions in the concerned countries have repeatedly expressed concern over the risks of ecological disaster caused by the sinking a tanker and exploitation of the area for its natural resources.

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