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Squamish port fire civil suit a tangled case

A massive fire that ripped through the Squamish port in 2015 was caused by the negligence of longshoremen or the crew members of a cargo ship, according to an unusual civil claim filed earlier this month that has not been tested in court.

The fire broke out on berth one at around 6:30 p.m. on April 16. The Star Atlantic was docked at the port at the time, but it was able to move to safety. By the time the port fire was extinguished days later, the berth was destroyed.

At first glance, the civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court looks like any other. It has a plaintiff, Squamish Terminals, and it has a list of defendants — the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and two of its locals, and the owner and operator of the Star Atlantic.

But speak to the named players in the claim and everything starts to get tangled. For one thing, it is not supported by the plaintiff at all.

The cause of the fire, according to the claim, was an improperly disposed of cigarette. Either longshoremen or crew members had smoked cigarettes in a non-smoking area and discarded one on a berth made of creosote-soaked timber, it reads. The workers failed to ensure that the tossed cigarette did not start a fire, and when it did, they failed to respond to it in a timely and reasonable fashion, according to the claim.


Losses were incurred in the fire. Those include the cost and expense of demolishing the berth and building a new one, and for loss of revenue among other things, according to the claim. It seeks damages from the union as well as Grieg International and Grieg Star, the owner and operator of the Star Atlantic.

But the first indication that something in the claim is amiss comes when you realize the plaintiff, Squamish Terminals, and defendant Grieg Star have the same owners. That information came from Sveinung Tvedt, a spokesman for Grieg Star in Norway.

The next indication comes when Kim Stegeman-Lowe, the president of Squamish Terminals, states that she believes the claim is without merit.

Stegeman-Lowe helped untangle the mess. 

After the fire, Squamish Terminals filed an insurance claim for the loss of the east dock. In turn, the company’s insurer, Zurich Canada, filed a claim against the union and Grieg, with Squamish Terminals listed as the plaintiff.

Zurich was not immediately available for comment.



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