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REPORTING · 8th February 2012
Merv Ritchie
In less than two weeks a second ship has arrived at a BC Port with damaged and lost cargo after encountering notorious “rogue” waves. The North Pacific is known as the most dangerous and violent waters on the planet and has been determined, by the worlds foremost expert on tankers, to rate tankers as have a stress life of only two voyages through storms in the region. This detail has been mostly ignored by the proponents of the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal with the subsequent required tanker traffic.

Today Time Columnist reporter Sandra McCulloch has published in the Vancouver Sun a story regarding a log barge cargo carrier arriving at Odgen Point in Victoria suffering major damage and losses after encountering a wave estimated to be as much as 50 feet in height. Read About It Here Less than two weeks earlier the Cosco Yokohama arrived in Prince Rupert missing dozens of containers after sailing through hurricane force winds. Read About It Here

An excerpt from Ms. McCulloch’s article illustrates the seriousness of these ocean waters.

The wave that slammed into the port side was 10-to-15 metres high, said Capt. Jostein Hoddevik, principal surveyor with IMS Marine Surveyors of Burnaby.

"It would have a lot of water behind it, a lot of force," Hoddevik said at Ogden Point on Monday.

He was aboard the vessel to assess the damage and review the incident on behalf of the ship's insurers.

A qualified captain with experience crossing the Atlantic, Hoddevik said there is little the crew could have done to avoid the wave. The incident occurred in an area of the north Pacific that's notorious for monstrous waves and punishing seas, he said.

The currents and wave patterns combine to make this a highly dangerous area.

"Several of the accidents I've been investigating have come from the same general location – a small area."

The vessel was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he said. "The timing of the wave would be crucial."

Cargo vessels are damaged by waves like this off the West Coast once or twice a year, he said.

On December 11, 2010, the Terrace Daily published an article identifying the hazards and the poor quality of the most modern methods of Tanker construction called STATE OF THE ART - THE VERY BEST TANKERS IN THE WORLD TODAY.
Read The Article Here.

An excerpt from this article details the seriousness of not considering current tanker construction methods. Dr. Jack Devanney, the author of the following excerpt, was President and CEO of Majestic Shipping Corp, the largest independent American owner of very large tankers and is the founder of a new organization, the Center for Tankship Excellence.

Fatigue Life

The rule standard fatigue life is 20 years. Most tankers operate for 25 years or more. It has always puzzled us as to why Class would set an average time to failure less than the expected ship life. When Hellespont specified a 40 year fatigue life, some class software had to be recoded to accept the larger number. But an equally pressing problem is that fatigue life depends critically upon the trading pattern that was implicitly included in the specification. According to both LR and ABS, a ship trading in the North Atlantic has a very different fatigue life than one trading in Indian Ocean. In this case, the class software is almost certainly correct, at least in a qualitative sense. The most graphic example of this is the American flag tankers trading on the Alaska-West Coast route. In this very severe environment, some of these ships turned out to have fatigue lives of one or two trips.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal envisages over 200 tankers plying these waters every year. They have detailed how they expect the largest and newest tankers, even using the words ‘State of the Art’ to describe them, to sail through these, the most violent ocean conditions on the planet.

The Joint Review Panel tasked by the Federal Government, the NEB (National Energy board) and the CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) does not have as its mandate considering tanker construction quality or the assessment of the violent waters of the North Pacific.
Tanker traffic
Comment by A concerned BC citizen on 14th February 2012
We often hear of, hurricane force wind warnings, and 40 to 50 foot waves, in the route the tankers have to navigate. The channel narrow, the tankers massive, which have to make hair turns. They say, the seas are hard enough to navigate in good weather. In bad storms, forget it.

There was a Japanese freighter, loaded with logs. They were caught in one of the bad storms off, the Northern tip of Vancouver island. The storm tore the top of the log load off. They were very afraid, if the bottom load of the logs shifted, the ship would capsize. They put out a distress call. It took many hours to reach the stricken ship.

There is not one doubt, the dirty oil tankers and the natural gas tankers won't have a spill. It most certainly will happen. Depending which country's Harper can con into accepting the dirty oil, we could have a slew, of oil tankers. China also wants our natural gas from the LNG tanks in Kitimat Port. So that's more tankers.

If Enbridge goes through, the U.S. may send their tankers to pick up the dirty oil too. That would be much easier, that fighting for the Keystone pipeline.

We are very concerned about our Whales. The Orca numbers, have just started to pick up. Everyone is so happy, when we see a new baby Orca. The three year old female Orca, has died from, undetermined injuries. That really upset everyone.

The Orca and Humpback Whales live in that tanker route. The Spirit Bear lives in the Rain Forests along the tanker route channel.

People from all over the world, come to Whale watch and Bear watch. A tanker spill will happen. This is a fight we must win.
Hecate Strait
Comment by Karen on 9th February 2012
I am not an expert by far on anything to do with ocean travel and tankers but at least I am willing to do a little research when faced with things I don't understand. In this case, 'How can tankers regularly traverse the Alaska coast without being exposed to the same ship fatigue as they would show in the Hecate Strait?'

The answer is probably in the fact that the Strait is in direct line from severe storms from the north and high winds off the south end of Moresby. The north end of Hecate Strait is only 45 meters deep which, I would guess, can result in very high waves and rough waters.

It is easy to see why a ban on tanker traffic was imposed, even if voluntary so far, on the BC North Coast when these particular waters have so many factors leading to the type of extreme weather and ocean conditions not seen anywhere else in the world.

Looking at a map of the Pacific coast and reading a little on land formations and how weather patterns emerge one could very well conclude that there is no comparison between the waters around Valdez, Alaska and the waters through the Hecate Strait.

Thank you Mike for bringing up the question because now I am more convinced, after what I have learned, that a moratorium must be legislated on tanker traffic on the North Coast.
Comment by Bryan N on 9th February 2012
Gerry, I never meant to suggest that the Exxon Valdez hit an iceberg, just that ships in Prince William Sound have to negotiate amongst icebergs.
As I said I am not necessarily pro pipeline, I am just tiring of the non-stop dire warnings about coastlines fouled with the inevitable results of the inevitable spill. Personally I believe it can be done very safely. Having said that I am also tired of those ads from industry warning of the "foreign special interest groups" trying to hijack the process.
We need to be a bit more balanced on both sides, and if Mr Ritchie is running what portrays itself as a source of news then he should be obligated to show a fair and balanced view. Logs carriers are piled high above their decks, I would suspect that these ships are loaded with the thought that if they lose some of the cargo every now and then it is worth the risk in allowing them to carry more on each trip. A log floating in the ocean doesn't pose the same risk as a barrel of oil.
Finally, as I said, there have been oil and gas pipelines running to Vancouver for years. CP Rail gave up on Coquihalla Pass due to unstable and steep terrain, and huge snow problems. Yet the pipe still flows. As a former longtime resident of the lower mainland, I would guess most people don't even know it is there.
Yep, I'm against Enbridge, it only takes one!
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 9th February 2012
The Exxon Valdez had one turn to take and then out to open ocean, the Captain was drunk but in his cabin, he took the rap, like a captain should! As in most cases human error led to this accident! Twenty three years later, wild animal and fish stocks are slowly finally returning to 1989 numbers! The herring fishery has never recovered! The salmon and sport fishing industry and tourism industry was desimated! Alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, spousal abuse and divorce ran rampant through the community! Only about 5 % of the spilled oil was ever recovered! the rest of the oil was either dumped in landfills or is still impregnated on the coastline, just over the years it has permeated into the sand! Hundreds of workers amoung the clean up crews have succumbed to cancers related to spill chemicals! Some fouled beaches are still unapproachable because of the strong stench of oil, and even after 23 years, dig your hand into the sand of many Alaskan Peninsula beaches and up comes .... OIL! The tax payers of Alaska wound up footing most of the bill for the clean up and court costs for all the law suits that ensued! EXXON went on to be one of the top three richest OIL corporations on earth! So you see guys it only takes one spill to change peoples lives forever! And Bryan the Exxon Valdez ran aground, The UNSINKABLE Titanic hit an iceberg!!
So, are you against Enbridge??
Comment by Bryan N on 8th February 2012
Before reading Mike's comments I was thinking that other than the Exxon Valdez, there haven't been many issues. I watched a documentary on the Valdez, and learned that since that tragedy much has improved. The ships are better built. The radar used to track ships through Prince William Sound is improved, as it was substandard even then. This occurred on a ship with a Captain who had been drinking. Last time I looked I didn't see any icebergs in the Douglas Channel. Also, lets not forget that oil has been running through Jasper Park, through the Coquihalla Pass (very unstable and treachorous area) and to Burrard Inlet for more than 50 yrs. Where are all the terrible spills? Why are there still fish in the Coquihalla River? Why are there still Elk in Jasper?
I may be wrong, but if you are going to act like a source of news then you have some obligation to show balance. Clearly you are not.
I am not saying I am 100% pro Enbridge, but I believe we should let the process continue. Funny how we all want great jobs, skidoos, F350's etc etc, but we want the money to arrive by some magical force that leaves everything exactly as we know it right now.
Logs to Japan
Comment by David Ealing on 8th February 2012
I followed your link to the Vancouver Sun story and was surprised to see all those logs destined for Japan. No wonder so many mills in BC are closing. Starting in the 1970s and until the 1990s, I was a saw fitter in lumber mills in the Lower Mainland. All of these mills, except one, no longer exist. I wonder how many new lumber mills are being built in Asia this year? If someone would have told all the people working in the BC lumber industry in the 1960s and 70s that in 2012 their children and grand children would have to go to Asia to see how lumber is made no one would would have believed it. But here we are...just about all the way there.
Something is not right with this picture.
Comment by Mike on 8th February 2012
I'm a bit confused as to why Dr. Devanney state that one or two voyages is the fatigue life of a tanker on the west coast route. From what I see there has been crude moving out of Valdez Alaska for over 30years by tanker...other than the Exxon Valdez, has there been other tanker disasters (and for that matter the Exxon ship wasn't even out in the ocean!). So near as I can see, Alaska has been moving oil to Asia, Hawaii and Alaska without losing a ship through throught the North Pacific for 30 years without losing a ship..why is B.C. so much worse?
I also don't see how a container ship can be compared to a tanker in that having a bunch of containers come loose can hardly be compared to having a hull breach. Tie them down better. Tankers come from the Persian Gulf around South Africa which has much higher incidence of rogue waves and I'm pretty sure their not scrapping their ships after two trips.
I guess my point is that many big ships move through the North Pacific everyday and I don't hear of them breaking up all the time or Alaskan tankers breaking up.
This story seems to be written with the purpose of instilling a fear that any ship in the North Pacific will not survive or will be brutally punished. Who is this Dr anyway? Owned some ships and has a "Tankership Excellence institute?, Yes, I did read his paper, some good points yes, but do your own research too people!