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Tonnes of oil, diesel pumped from leaking B.C. shipwreck 53 years after sinking

The 147-metre cargo ship went down in Nootka Sound in 1968.

Tonnes of bulk fuel has been safely removed from a ship that sank off the west coast of Vancouver Island more than half a century ago.

Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan says 60 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and diesel has been pumped from the sunken MV Schiedyk.

The 147-metre cargo ship went down in Nootka Sound in 1968 and remained undisturbed 122 metres below the surface until last fall when an oily sheen was spotted in waters near the wreck. 

The federal government awarded a $5.7-million contract to a Florida company to use remotely operated underwater vehicles and a process called hot tapping to drill into the ship, suction out the fuel and then flush the tanks.

When the work was announced early last month, the Fisheries Department said there was the chance for a larger release of oil but no spill was detected.

Jordan says the success of the operation is a "great relief."

"This was a challenging operation, given the depth of the vessel and the remote location, but a critical one," Jordan says in a statement.

In addition to the recovered fuel, the coast guard says 48,500 kilograms of oil and oily waste has been soaked up since last December when a floating command post was established in the waters above the wreck to monitor and contain the sheen.

Joint managers of the response include the Canadian Coast Guard, B.C. Ministry of Environment and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation, with a virtual incident command post staffed by personnel from across Canada.

The Irish-built MV Schiedyk hit a submerged ledge off Bligh Island on Jan. 3, 1968, but its 34 crew members safely abandoned ship as it drifted into deeper waters and went down.

The rusting remnants of the cargo ship will not be removed.