How a town rallied around a quarantined oil tanker off the Cape Breton coast

May 10, 2021
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People in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., have rallied together to make sure crew members of a ship quarantined just off the Cape Breton coast are comfortable while they wait to restart their journey.

The STI San Telmo, an oil tanker that was bound for Montreal, had to change course last week and drop anchor off eastern Nova Scotia because of concerns of COVID-19 on the vessel. It has been anchored off Cape Breton since April 11.

Ship operators later confirmed that at least eight crew members were infected with the coronavirus. One crew member was transported to shore for medical care while the rest were ordered by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to stay put.

“[We] thought, ‘OK, well that’s a pretty scary situation for them,’ ” said John Ouellette, vice-president of the Port Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce.

According to the captain, the crew members are from Latvia, Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Ouellette told CBC News he and others in his community were concerned for the crew being stuck, waiting for an uncertain outcome, so they decided they wanted to help.

“We just started to kick around the idea … let’s just gather some things up.”

They gathered comfort items and local souvenirs like tuques, T-shirts, bumper stickers bearing the motto “Nova Scotia Strong,” tartan scarves and more.

Ouellette said he knew the crew already had all the necessities on board, so he and the rest of the contributors wanted to focus on special items that would leave them feeling fondly about the area.

Some sweet treats like doughnuts (from Tim Hortons, of course), Turkish delight and Girl Guide cookies also made it into the care package, which was shrink-wrapped and delivered to the ship during a routine medical check.

“We didn’t really follow [Canada’s Food Guide],” Ouellette quipped.

According to an online marine tracking tool the STI San Telmo, which sails out of the Marshall Islands near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, departed Antwerp, Belgium, on March 31.

The vessel is safely anchored and crew members who remain on board are following public health guidelines, said a spokesperson with Transport Canada, noting that the ship will be allowed to leave its anchorage only when PHAC agrees that it is safe to do so.

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