The control room aboard the salvage barge Arctic Tuk as crews raise the Samantha J from the bottom of Northumberland Channel during a salvage operation on Friday. Photo: Global Diving and Salvage

Sunken tugboat recovered from Nanaimo Harbour waters

Samantha J, which sank in 2014, raised from bottom of Northumberland Channel in two-day operation

A tug that sank near Gabriola Island has been raised from the depths of Northumberland Channel.

The Samantha J, owned by Jones Marine Services, capsized in October 2014 when it ran into difficulties while towing a wood chip barge. The crew was not injured, but the tug was lost until it was hoisted from a depth of just over 66 metres last week in a two-day salvage operation by U.S.-based Global Diving and Salvage.

Rodney Grounds, Port of Nanaimo harbour master, said the salvage outfit arrived Feb. 26 and started setting up for the operation with its remotely operated underwater vehicle and divers.

“Global only had a two-day window to do this … the raising of this vessel was done on behalf of the owner through its insurance company,” Grounds said.

The Samantha J was hoisted onto the salvage barge Arctic Tuk where the tug was drained of water and any remaining fuel and oil before it was re-floated and returned to Jones Marine Services.

“Once the vessel was confirmed to have no hydrocarbons on board, by coast guard, then they were allowed to put it back into the water and the owner took the vessel in tow and took it back to their facility,” Grounds said.

The tug had to be recovered because its position posed a navigation hazard. Grounds said the craft was sitting on the edge of Nanaimo Anchorage 1 site.

“Which rendered it useless. With the raising of that, that restriction was removed the same day as the vessel was sailed out of the harbour. Now I can put a 225-metre ship back in there,” Grounds said, adding that a 225m ship was parked there Saturday.

Another small tug, the Albern, which sank after collided with a larger tug while escorting a log boom in 2016, remains on the bottom of the channel near Duke Point.

“It is not in an area that it’s going to be easy to locate,” Grounds said. “It is in deeper water and it’s not a navigational hazard at this time, so that one will be reassessed by the receiver of wreck. That wouldn’t be a call from us, but it’s a lot smaller tug. It was just a little yarding tug.”

According to Nauticapedia, a volunteer-run nautical heritage website that focuses on Canada’s Pacific nautical history, the Samantha J was built in 1973 and originally christened Northumberland Navigator until its name was changed in 2003. It was owned by MacMillan Bloedel until 1994, then owned by Harmac Pacific 1995-1997 until it was acquired by Jones Marine Services in 1999.



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The tug Samantha J pictured as it was being raised from the bottom of Northumberland Channel on Friday. Photo: Global Diving and Salvage

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