B.C. coast no worse than others for tankers
Monday, 21 May 2012 | 00:00
The Enbridge pipeline issue is complex, involving miles of pipeline, a myriad of stakeholders as well as proponents and protesters of the project speaking out.
One major issue is the oil tankers that will traverse the B.C. coastline, carrying the crude bitumen to foreign soils. Some, if upended, would span about three football fields in length.
Many say the danger of them navigating the coast of B.C. is just too great.
However, Chris Anderson, marine advisor at Enbridge, said though any coastline in the world that experiences gale-force winds must be contended with, B.C.’s coast is no worse than others.
“It is no more difficult than the North Sea in the winter, no more than the North Atlantic in the winter, no more than the coast of Japan, all of these places where tankers are trading on a regular basis.”
Many have been operating for 30 years, and Anderson said the combination of applying new technologies with the experiences of others who have been in the business for so long can help Enbridge make the project as foolproof as possible.
He added it has been said B.C. does not have confined channels, which is not true.
“The fact of the matter is we do. Ours are longer but also deeper and wider.”
He said they are used so ships can keep in the shelter. However, before navigating them, a pilot must come aboard ship. This means if there is a storm and a pilot cannot get to the ship, it must wait before proceeding. Often, when a storm is forecast, the speed of the ship is adjusted so it arrives when the storm ends and the pilot can be procured.
Anderson added not only is the company working diligently so safeguards are put in place to ensure there is no spill in the first place, but also to mitigate any damage if something happens.
There are already numerous regulations in place governing tankers, he said. Some are implemented by the Canada Shipping Act, others by the International Maritime Organization. Enbridge, he said, plans to not only strictly adhere to those measures but hopes to improve on them, meaning they intend to be more cautious and safety conscious than what is required.
However the studies, simulations and promises made by Enbridge lend little comfort to some of those concerned who believe people should be cynical about the information Enbridge is sharing since the company has a vested interest in the outcome of such studies.
“We are not the fox guarding the hen house,” Anderson said. “That is not correct. Shipping is governed.”
If the pipeline goes through, the oil that arrives in Kitimat will be shipped overseas via a northern and southern route. Twenty-five per cent of the ships going through the coastal passages will be smaller tankers, Aframax, about 180 to 200 metres long capable of shipping 100,000 tonnes of cargo. The Suezmax, which will make up about 50 per cent of traffic, are about 280 metres long and carry 160,000 to 180,000 tonnes. The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) are 830 metres long, about the length of three football fields, and carry 300,000 tonnes of cargo. They will carry about 25 per cent of the cargo.
Although all the ships have electronic navigation, nighttime watch keepers and built-in radar, at this time there is no independent radar system in Kitimat. Anderson said Enbridge intends to install radar and communication systems, and augment those available in Prince Rupert.
Other safety measures include a system that changes ballast water in deep sea so no contaminants from other shores are brought to Canada. With safety and design measures, the focus will be on the escort tugs which will have built-in suspenders, capable of acting as an independent entity to steer.
Anderson said each ship must list all of its particulars including every port it has entered, whether it has been inspected and its deficiencies. All certifications must be up-to-date.
Questions regarding whether or not the crew speaks English and can communicate with the pilot will be asked.
“Currently there are no speed restrictions in place,” Anderson said.
They will institute some so the escort tug can always control the ship.
The tugs are designed with first-response capabilities if there ever is a spill. They are able to skim oil, deal with fire suppression and monitor the situation.
“We can’t close our eyes and say there will never be a spill,” Anderson said. “The worst case is a collision risk.”
Having the gear, equipment and manpower on-hand to accommodate if a spill occurs not only through properly outfitting tugs as first responders but positioning everything needed at three primary centres is part of the plan.
“We will have the whole coast covered for a 12-hour response,” he said.
They’ve also promised they will maintain or contract a RO capable, under the planning standards, of containing, and recovering within 10 days or the shortest possible time, up to 32,000 tonnes of on-water oil, which is more than three times the Canadian Standard.
Currently response comes via Vancouver or Victoria and takes up to 72 hours.
“We believe all the safety measures put in place are going to make this project a viable one,” Anderson said.
Source: Prince Georgia Free Press