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REPORTING · 2nd March 2012
Merv Ritchie
The residents of Haida Gwaii have always stood firm in their collective resolve to oppose any crude oil tankers and offshore drilling activity. One of the common themes of discussion is whether there is a moratorium on this on not.

There is an exclusion zone agreed upon by the USA Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard as well as the American Institute of Merchant Shipping (AIMS).

From documents recovered by the Dogwood Initiative through the Freedom of Information Office we reproduce the following information from May of 1988.

It must be noted this does not apply to tankers originating from or travelling to Canadian ports. This was designed and implemented for Tankers coming from Alaskan Ports.

Above is a map showing the area protected by the exclusion zone. Following this document is a set of seventy pictures sent to us by a reader who collected them from various locations on Haida Gwaii.


This document describes the Tanker Exclusion Zone off Canada's West Coast, its history and its rationale for development.

Following discussions in 1988 which involved US Coast guard, Canadian Coast Guard and representatives from the US Tanker industry user group, it was agreed this Tanker Exclusion Zone would be voluntarily adopted.

This procedure presents the optimum compromise for marine safety, user economics, and environmental considerations of all the agencies involved.


In the 1970s the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) was completed. The line runs from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Alaska. Since that time, tankers varying in size from 50,000 to 250, 000 DWT have been transporting crude oil from Valdez to U.S. west coast ports. On average there is one loaded tanker entering the Juan de Fuca Strait every day and conversely, a tanker, in ballast, exits the straits for Alaska.

Environmental concerns resulted in the establishment of a routing system for the TAPS tankers in 1977. These routes were designed to keep tankers in excess of 100 miles west of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The southern portion of the routes was approximately 85 miles from Cape Scott, 35 miles from Estevan Point and 25 miles from Amphitrite Point, Vancouver Island.

In March, 1982, the U.S. Coast Guard cancelled the TAPS routes. They were unpopular with the Tanker Industry and there was concern by the U.S. Government that the northern portion of the routes was not surveyed.

On June 15th 1985, revised TAPS routes similar to the 1977 routes were established; but again not favoured by the industry. The cost of conforming to the new routes was objected to by the American Institute of Merchant Shipping (AIMS). Now the Chamber of Shipping of America. They felt the routes were too confining and added considerably to the operating expenses of the tankers. Additionally, ATMS felt tankers should be able to plan their trips with consideration given to weather and other environmental factors.

During December 1985 members of the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards met with members of AIMS in Seattle to discuss tanker routing, It was agreed that a temporary Tanker Exclusion Zone be established off the Canadian West Coast as an interim measure. This zone has since held tankers 77 miles to the west of Cape St. James, 60 miles from Triangle Island, 40 miles from Estevan Point. In the meantime, the Canadian Coast Guard conducted a Tanker Drift Study. The results were published in January, 1988.

On January 26th, 1988, members of the Canadian Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard met with representatives of the American Institute of Merchant Shipping in Seattle to discuss the Tanker Drift Study and the recommended Tanker Exclusion Zone. All three parties accepted the results of the Study. The Tanker Exclusion Zone defines an area off Canada's West Coast where a disabled tanker would likely drift ashore prior to the arrival of salvage tugs in unfavourable weather conditions.


The availability of tugs along the B.C. Coast was closely examined. It was found that on the average there are about 25 tugs between Alaska and Puget Sound at any one time, capable of assisting a disabled tanker. However, most of these are committed and would have to dispose of their tows before proceeding once dispatched to an incident. There are two tugs on the coast ready for dispatch on relatively short notice and they operate out of Anacortes, Washington. These tugs are 7,000 and 9,000 HP each. The speed of the tugs, for the purposes of this study, was taken to be 12 knots for inside waters and 9 knots for outside waters in unfavourable weather conditions.

The approximate response time for a salvage tug from Anacortes to arrive at certain locations along the B.C. Coast are estimated to be as follows:

Vancouver Island

Buoy J via Strait of Juan de Fuca - - - - - - - - 08 hrs
Estevan Point via Strait of Juan de Fuca - - - 18 hrs
Solander Island via Strait of Juan de Fuca - - 26 hrs
Solander Island via inside waters - - - - - - - - 29 hrs
Cape Scott via inside waters - - - - - - - - - - - - 24 hrs

Queen Charlotte Islands

Cape St. James via inside - - - - - - - - 37 hrs
Tasu Sound - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 43.5 hrs
Rennel Sound - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 49 hrs
Langara Point - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 54.5 hrs

A computer program was developed to simulate the drift track of a disabled 100,000 DWT tanker. Storm scenarios and ocean currents (where known) were introduced. Four typical storms were modelled, along with ocean currents, for the zone off Vancouver Island. The results of previous studies were used to predict the response of the tanker to these winds and currents. The computer then calculated the track and time it would take for a vessel to ground on the B.C. shoreline. Simulations were run for 49 selected location off the B.C. Coast Times listed above were used to predict the time for a salvage tug from Anacortes to arrive on the scene in each case.


A Tanker Exclusion Zone was developed and established along the B.C. Coast The purpose of the zone is to keep laden tankers west of the zone boundary in an effort to protect the environment and shoreline in the event of a tanker becoming disabled while in transit.

The following factors were considered when defining the zone boundary;

1. The requirement to reduce as much as is reasonably practical the possibility of a disabled tanker grounding on the B.C. Coast.

2. Concern for the safety of fishing activity off the West Coast of Vancouver Island; in particular, reducing the risk of collision with tankers.

3. The expressed desire by AIMS to keep the boundary as close to the shoreline as reasonably possible for economic reasons.

4. The position at time of breakdown of the simulated tankers which were predicted to run aground before the arrival of a salvage tug.

5. The predicted time for the Anacortes tug to reach and affect salvage at selected locations along the B.C. coastline.

Based on the stated requirements and findings, the Exclusion Zone is defined as follows (See Figure 5-1 in main report):

A LINE FROM 54 00N 136 17W to 51 05N 132 30W to 48 26N 12614W to 48 28N124 59W


In order to reduce the likelihood of grounding on the B.C. Coast, in the event of propulsion or steering gear breakdown, loaded tankers operating from Valdez Alaska to U. S. West Coast ports should refrain from operating in the Tanker Exclusion Zone.


Southbound tankers from Alaska for Juan de Fuca Strait shall observe the following: Report by message to CVTS OFFSHORE (AT OR NEAR) crossing 54 "North latitude in accordance with normal IMO standard ship reporting system format. (See Annual Edition, Notice to Mariners #26)

In the event that a tanker develops a defect or deficiency which in any way impairs the progress of the ship, a message, stating the problem and the master's intentions, shall be sent without delay to the Canadian or U.S. Coast Guard via either of the following means

a) Via any Canadian Coast Radio Station free of charge; or

b) to the Regional Marine Information Centre (RMIC) rmic-pacific,,,


The Tanker Exclusion Zone has been established to enhance the safety of the environment along Canada's West Coast and at the same time allow loaded tankers to operate at a reasonable distance from the-shoreline.
Just for the Halibut!
Comment by Pat#1 on 6th March 2012
Is it possible to get the template for the 'halibut'?

I would love to make one and post it in my yard, stand it on my roof or hang it on my fence...I have a nautically themed fence ;-)

Yard art can be a positive thing!
Harper's economy trumps everything
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 4th March 2012
This letter clearly shows that the JRP will, in no way, influence Harper's decision on the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal...this dictator's mind is made up.

The Harper government, the oil industry and China are in a stalemate against the majority of Canadians, future generations and the environment... because of greed.

Oil and gas moratorium
Comment by David on 2nd March 2012
While the citizens of the North Coast have made it abundantly clear over the past 30 years that they are totally opposed to oil and gas exploration, the Conservatives are taking view that there is no enactment or regulation preventing oil and gas exploration or, by extension, oil tankers from plying the waters of the North Coast.

Because there is no law to stop them, the foreigners in Ottawa who have never even been to the North Coast now control this decision.