The Canadian Coastguard has banned a damaged 24-year-old supertanker, Eastern Power, from entering its waters, saying the onus is on its owner, Singapore-based World-Wide Shipping, to prove that it poses no pollution threat.
"To us it's a seaworthy vessel outside our waters with a slight leak, and until her owners can demonstrate that it is no threat to Canadian waters we are denying access," said a Canadian coastguard owner Transport Canada official, adding that the ship was carrying 1.9 million barrels, or 250,000 tons, of crude oil.
The official added that a coastguard observation flight Thursday afternoon had showed no signs of pollution, but one that was scheduled for Friday morning could not take off due to bad weather.
The tanker was destined for North Atlantic Refining's Refinery at the Newfoundland port of Come By Chance. A spokesman for the refinery said the ship was carrying Iraqi crude and had been chartered by Swiss-based oil trader Vitol.
It was reported that owners of the refinery had told Transport Canada it did not want an oil spill on its doorstep and it could find plenty of oil elsewhere.
"We can seen no compelling reason to let the ship in," the official said. He emphasized that the ship was stable and that it was leaking from the front section, which is "not a high stress area."
A World-Wide Shipping official said: "On Wednesday the Captain reported a slight sheen on the water close to the ship. He slowed down the speed and about 1,850 tons of crude was moved from that area of the ship to another cargo tank. The sheen then vanished."
He said Transport Canada had been informed the leak had come from the number one starboard tank, and that the oil had been pumped to a central tank.
World-Wide confirmed the ship had encountered very bad weather in the middle of the Atlantic and developed the leak 780 miles from port.