Canadian Marine Industry Responds to Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, widely considered the largest in US history – and possibly the world, has led to a massive cleanup effort to minimize damage to the environment and wildlife. A number of Canadian marine businesses have been at the forefront of the response, supplying cleanup materials and remediation experts.

“This spill is absolutely unprecedented,” says Brian Sheehan, Fortress Anchors' International Marketing Manager. “The effort has been incredible to contain the spill from reaching the marshlands and the beaches of the Gulf area throughout Louisiana in particular. Any company in the US that's involved with any type of environmental hazard response contracting has gotten their hands into this by supplying oil containment booms, rope, chain, anchors and buoys. That has created a tremendous amount of business for some companies that have those items. From what I understand, steel anchors have been purchased in the thousands.”

The demand has even been felt north of the border as Canadian companies have scrambled to send materials to help containment crews. Bill Wyatt, Facility Manager for Resolve Marine Group, Fort Lauderdale, FL, says his company has been receiving and deploying containment equipment in the Gulf for BP. “Can you image the footage of booms that are needed to protect the Gulf's coast? By gosh, that's going to be a big number.”

Newly formed Ground Force Environmental Inc. (GFEI), Waterloo, ON, which has dispatched equipment designed to extract oil from water to sites in southern Louisiana as well as crews to deploy booms, believes it has at least a year's worth of work. “We'll be running crews down here for a year to two years,” says John Theurer, a member of GFEI's board of directors. “We mobilized our water purification, hydrocarbon extraction and vacuum recovery equipment. We've acquired BP contracts for the remediation of the oil out of the marshes and treatment of the water. We're working in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi doing product removal from the inner harbours and beach protection. We're using the same stuff we sell to marinas up here in Canada. So far we've deployed miles and miles of booms. At a marina in Canada they use perhaps 100 to 200 feet of booms. Down there we're going after 300-mile contracts.”

Another Canadian company that has been supplying equipment for the spill is Carmanah Technologies Corporation in Victoria, BC, which is providing its solar LED marine lanterns to help keep marine traffic safe while cleanup efforts continue. Several hundred white and yellow Carmanah/Sabik LED lanterns have been deployed to mark areas such as bays and waterways where containment booms present a risk to navigational safety.

Then there's Parry Sound, ON-based Connor Industries, which has seen a surge in business worth somewhere between $2.5 to $3 million. The company's landing-craft style aluminum boats have been in huge demand and are among some 1,700 vessels in the Gulf engaged in clean-up activities.

While demand for Canadian products used in containment has increased, the potential for shipment delays of US products bound for Canada has also risen. Sheehan says Canadian distributors and dealers of the types of products that are being used to contain the spill – such as anchors – shouldn't be surprised if there's a shortage in the near future. “BP put it into motion that these spill contractors needed to deploy thousands of anchors with these oil containment booms, way beyond the manufacturing capability of any US company,” warns Sheehan. “The inventory was quickly depleted. Our inventory is depleted in a couple of models. As we're going into the busy part of the boating season we're not in a good stock position.”