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REPORTING · 19th March 2012
Walter McFarlane
The North Coast Community Advisory Board held a Semi-public information session on Safe Shipping and Marine Safety on BC’s North Coast in relation to the Enbridge Project. The Information Session took place in Kitimat on Tuesday, March 13th.

There were three presentations. The first was a presentation from the BC Coastal Pilot Requirements and Marine Transportation Safety on the North Coast presented by Marine Captain Fred Denning from the Canadian Marine Pilots Association. The second was from Captain Steven Brown talking about the Government’s Shipping Regulations. The third presentation came from the Province of BC Environmental Emergency Program presented by Norm Fallows from the government of British Columbia.

Questions were encouraged between presentations.

Captain Fred Denning on the Canadian Marine Pilots

Denning took to the podium for his presentation. He explained Marine Pilots were professional licensed mariners whose role is to advise captains of foreign ships on the safest route to get a vessel into the port of call. They are familiar with the coastlines, waterways, ports, tides, currents, weather conditions, regulations and restrictions for the areas.

They use their experience and knowledge of the vessels, how they handle under various conditions, to advise the best route. The pilot is responsible for the movement of the ship through the waterways so there is no damage to the ship or the environment around it.

Denning explained BC Coast Pilots is a private company with 100 marine pilots who contract out to the pacific pilotage authority, which make sure the pilotage system is provided on the BC Coast. There are 55 pilots in Vancouver, 40 in Victoria and 5 in Nanaimo. Two pilots rotate in and out of Prince Rupert. This number may increase as the volume of ships increase.

“BC Coast Pilots ensure vessels are navigated through the various waterways along the coast so there’s no damage to the ship, it’s crew, the public or the marine environment. British Columbia is home to one of the most pristine and ecological sensitive marine habitats in North America. We play an important part in making sure BC’s miles of coastline are preserved,” said Denning.

They have an invested interest in the coast as it is also home to their members and their families. Pilots require five years as a captain, extensive training, apprenticeships and examinations. Denning explained the process.

He stated BC is becoming the Pacific gateway to Asia. This could mean further traffic on the coast and expansion of industries. It also means more security being put into place.

“For new developments on this coast, BCCP works closely with the pilotage authority to ensure fundamental standards of safety are considered and adhered to. We work with developers and regulators to ensure all pilot related issues have been considered. This includes the passage too and from the site of a new development, approaches to the birth, navigation aids, adequate moorings, appropriate assists, escort tugs and up to date surveys of the water are available and any other relevant points that may be of concern,” said Denning.

They use a simulation programs for new terminals. The results of the simulations may be enforced with live ship trials. They may also make requests for new navigation aids.

He described the projects they have been involved with. They have been consulting on the oil and LNG projects and are being consulted for their opinions on safe movement for their ships. They are not going to approve or disapprove any project, they give their opinion on safe ways to avoid risk.

They have consulted on the Enbridge Project since 2005. They have simulated many scenarios. It will take real ship studies to confirm these simulations. Licensed pilots will be on board the vessels. They could move the pilot stations so the ships are not exposed to undue danger. More pilots will be trained. Pilots will be equipped with navigation units independent of the ships navigation equipment. Tankers will be escorted by two tugs, at least one of them will be tethered. Tankers and ballast will also be escorted, tethered based on case by case basis. Pilots will be provided with up to date traffic movement.

Speed Limits will be imposed on vessels based on wind condition, sea condition and visibility. New charts will be produced on these areas. Tug crews will train with pilots on birthing and escort practices. Finally, 36 new or upgraded navigational aids have been identified and they will be operational by the time the tankers arrive.

They will learn lessons from other projects which they have worked on in the past. He went over how they would recruit more pilots.

Denning explained there are protected areas so the environment can be protected while shipping routes are negotiated. They will use technology to make sure they do a safe job.

“Going forward, we will continue to work with other stakeholders to ensure marine traffic is navigated safely through the BC Coast, all the while, protecting our environmental habitat while our marine community continues to grow. A safe marine industry is a sustainable marine industry,” said Denning.

Questions came for Captain Denning.

The first question was: if the pilots have experience with the coastline, how could they think this was a safe route? Denning said they spend their entire career moving ships. There has not been a single issue of concern if the mitigating factors which have been identified are put into play.

“We don’t feel the levels of risk are any greater up here then any other passage on the coast,” said Denning.

The next question regarded the TERMPOL process. The questioner said Enbridge plans to ramp up the exporting. At the end, there will be over 1000 ships moving through the channel. The questioner asked how safe this could make it. Denning explained tethered tugs are mandatory. They are the fundamental safety item on this project. If one tug fails, the other will be able to do the work. As for traffic, they move 6000 ships in and out of Vancouver Harbour with no problem with traffic.

The next person asked who would pay for the navigational aids. The response was the coast guard has asked the proponents for the navigational aids and performance upgrades.

The final question asked how many commercial navigation accidents took place on the West Coast of Canada. The response was very few. They record every item. He stated the incident with the Petersfield would not have occurred with the navigation aids.

One person stepped up to compliment the Pilots for working without incident.

Captain Steven Brown on the Government’s Shipping Regulations

Brown was the second presenter speaking on the topic of the governance of shipping. “We are very, very heavily governed. Every bit is governed as the airline industry and possibly more,” said Brown.

He wanted to clarify misunderstandings about the tanker industry. The governing body for the shipping industry is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) based in London. They are responsible for safety at sea and the protection of the marine environment.

There are Canadian representatives who are experts. They bring recommendations made in committees to parliament and this gets ratified into Canadian Law. The Shipping Act gets bigger as more is added to it.

He explained regulations were put into place in 1990 after the incident with Exxon Valdez. It changed the tanker industry by introducing the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

It required ships to have a clean up plan and phased out single hulled tankers as in 1992 the IMO required tankers to be doubled hull. There are some single hulled tankers and they are not permitted in North America.

In 1993, they introduced an international safety management code to prevent loss of life and damage to a marine environment. When a safety inspector goes on board a vessel, the crew has to demonstrate they know how to operate every piece of equipment on the ship. In 2003, ballast water was managed to allow all ships to treat ballast water.

Industry requires standards to be enforced by Transport Canada. Each ship has a class and flies a flag. In addition, there is also vetting of ships, which Brown stated he would explain later.

He presented a slide showing the size of the tanker and their deadweight. The deadweight is the carrying capacity of the tankers. He explained they are filling 120,000 tonne tankers 20 miles off the coast of California because the Port of Long Beach is too shallow to accept the tankers. They are currently dredging the port to make it deep enough to allow those tankers more readily.

“There is a perception that these very large crude carriers are mammoth ships and something extraordinary. There are a lot of them around, about 600 in the world today. I think the other thing that is not to be overlooked is they are exactly the same size as the LNG ships that are going to be coming in here, assuming the KMLNG project will be going forward,” said Brown.

He said the LNG vessel they were looking at is 345 metres in length and the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) is 330 metres in length. The LNG Carrier 54 metres across, the VLCC is 58. He argued if people refuse the VLCC’s they have to refuse the LNG as well because the ships are the same size.

Brown explained on the Douglas Straight in Europe, they have organized shipping lanes and all vessels going one way have to stay in the same lane. He listed several more straights and how many ships they get.

Brown expressed the Douglas Channel is one nautical mile across, which is enough room for two vessels to pass. He added professional mariners would sleep more easily in their beds at night if every waterway was like the Douglas Channel. It would not be a challenge for them.

He stated the Panama Canal was small and had 2000 tankers.

He said there was no ban on tankers on the coast of BC but there is an exclusion zone. On the Eastern Coast, this topic is not controversial at all because there are several places where tankers load and unload and they are not even escorted. Brown explained the safety standards for the coast of BC would be revolutionary. They are not applied anywhere else, even in Canada.

The next slide showed how risk mitigation has decreased the number of accidents.

He went into how vetting works. Ships would be selected based upon their history. Every detail of the ship would be looked into before they are hired. Brown said they are working on improving the ships to decrease emissions.

He stated there are mandatory laws in place to keep the crew at 100% efficiency and trained. There are preventative measures for training. There is emissions control legislation for Canada which requires ships to burn cleaner fuel.

Brown pointed out how tankers are managed. There have been advances in safety, design, environmental regulations, training, response measures, strict guidelines by regulators and decreasing accidents.

He concluded by saying a lot of the concerns were brought up in Norway. The proponents brought in three tankers and parked them then opened them to the public.

“Cherish the past, live for the day and dream for tomorrow,” said Brown.

The first question was about the vetting program.

They wanted to know who would be vetting the ships, the pipeline owners or the buyer. Brown replied it would depend on who chartered the ship. This would be the party for the vetting.

She followed up the question, if the price of oil fell, they would not be able to afford a properly vetted ship. The answer was no. He however explained the marine shipping industry was a social license. If the people of the world believe it is not safe to transport goods by ship, they would lose their social license.

The next person commented: it will not be Enbridge would not be chartering the ship, it would be the buyer. If they can squeeze a nickel out of the transportation, they will do it. He asked if Canada has ever turned away vessels on the West Coast of BC and is there standardized liability insurance so we are protected.

Brown replied ships have to report 96 hours before they land. They have to report all deficiencies. Depending on the deficiency, they may or may not be allowed a tug, they may or may not be allowed past the piloting station, and they may or may not be detained in Vancouver, until a Transport Canada Inspector goes on board and deems it safe to proceed.

He explained all ships have to have an oil spill response and they have to be registered. A part of it is knowing who their insurance company is. A part of it is knowing who the contact people are. All ships carry their own oil spill liability. If a ship goes over, they have other sources. Finally, a tax on oil exports has been collected in a contingency fund just in case the need arises.

The third questioner was asked about weather conditions, how they put a pilot in place under these conditions. Brown explained ships can do donuts in the water until it is safe to come in to the pilot station. There have been cases where containers have lost cargo but the ship is not in any danger.

There was a question asking if their would be insurance on the cargo as a part of the vetting process. Brown explained it was, the insurance company would expect tankers are vetted.

Norm Fallows from the government of British Columbia

The last presentation was from Fallows who presented on the topic of the BC Environmental Emergencies Program. He explained the Ministry of Environment is the lead agency for the province when it comes to hazardous material incidents and oil spills.

He explained there are four pillars for an incident: Preparation, Prevention, Response and Recovery. He said their organization was thin, there were only 10 full time response officers in British Columbia. He is the senior representative for everything North of Williams Lake. There is one officer in Prince George, two in Fort Saint John, 2 in Kamloops, 1 in Cranbrook, 3 in Surry, 1 in Nanaimo, 1 in Penticton, 1 in Nelson and then four program staff. To put this into perspective, Washington State has 79 people in their program compared to 17 in British Columbia.

“A response model that we incorporate, which most jurisdictions and response organizations incorporate is called a polluter pay principal. What it means is whoever has character control over the volume at the time of a spill is responsible for cleaning up their spill,” said Fallows.

Their main role in an environmental emergency is to monitor the performance of the responsible party and to determine the principal party as it relates to health and safety and environmental protection.

Who is involved depends on the product, where it occurred and what sort of impact the product would have on the environment. He listed who would be involved based on where it would take place.

He explained they deal with 3000 spills a year in BC, from cars, transports, meth labs and pipelines.

With some technical difficulties, Fallows took some questions.

One person asked if the service was chronically under funded. Fallows replied it is their job to make sure the spill gets cleaned up. He would like more resources since 3 officers is thin for two thirds of the province.

Another said with all the talk about safety, the department which will supervise the cleaning up makes it look like what they say about the environment is not happening. She said she could not see who would take care of a spill if it is not funded. He could not disagree.

Back into the presentation,

Fallows explained spills are reducing and most of them are in the lower mainland and on Vancouver Island. Due to the oil patch, the North has the most spills, mostly due to equipment failure. Some of it is due to vandalism and some of it is due to human error.

They make sure parties clean up their spills in accordance with BC laws. However, there are spills which cannot be cleaned up. He explained if someone dumped a litre of oil into a swimming pool, there would be a rainbow sheen on the surface one molecule thick. This makes it impossible to clean up. He explained it was risk base. Oil tankers are low probability and high consequence.

A spill of 100 litres or more has to be reported, less than 100 litres does not. However, the responsible party still has to clean it up. The provincial response is risk based. There has to be a threat to the environment, commerce or people.

He mentioned they tried to have a geographic response plan in advance so all groups know how to react to a spill. He said he did not want to see a spill but accidents do occur and they cannot prevent all accidents. They do a good job. He stated the oil industry is forced to do a better job and they do a better job.

After the Queen of the North went down, Fallows stated he realized they need to spend more time engaging First Nations as they know the areas. They are working with First Nations and other organizations so when they need to respond, they will be able to.

“We preach the concept of net environment benefit. What does that mean? It means, we have a bad situation, how do we make it less bad. There is going to be trade offs,” said Fallows.

He explained; if there was an oil spill at sea, if they are not going to leave it sitting on the water, do they burn it? They balance the trade offs between leaving it there or burning it. They do not want oil spills.

He stated there were two oil spills in Russia. One was cleaned up properly, the other was untouched. After a year, the one which was cleaned still showed signs of oil, the other was cleaned up. He stated in Prince William Sound, they should have let nature clean up some of the oil and stated the environment has begun to recover.

He concluded by stating in his opinion, all ships are floating tankers and they all have to be prepared for the inevitable.

Questions for Fallows resumed

The first person to ask Fallows a question stated there was an incident where an Enbridge Pipeline in Marshal, Michigan sprung a leak, however, the EPA told them there were problems with the pipeline and they asked for continuance where they did not to deal with it right away. He stated it was under a continuance where the pipeline broke and Enbridge is claiming they were not responsible. He asked if the Provincial Government allows the pipeline to be built in an avalanche zone, who is going to pay if an avalanche takes it out?

Fallows replied he would deal with the spill and deal with those issues. They will hold who has care control of the product responsible.

The next person said they should hold all parties responsible. He pointed out there were several groups who could be responsible over the pipeline to Kitimat and the 140 km out into the ocean. A follow-up was why there was no plan for having crews along the pipeline for the clean up. This question went unanswered.

What would happen in a condensate spill? What kinds of poison would be released when condensate hit fresh water or saltwater. Fallows did not know although he knew it was toxic.

Would other companies be able to use the geographic plans? Fallows replied the Geographic Response Plan was something he would like to revisit across BC. They would take a few years to put into place and they would require resources.

A question came as to why we were not prepared and about how money is being taken away from Environmental Protection. The gentleman asked, how do we put faith in environmental protection while the money is being taken away and not put back in? Fallows replied the world is built by those who show up.

Another came about bitumen sinking faster then crude. He did not know because he has not dealt with it.

A final comment explained how; as the pipe is not in the ground and the oil is not flowing, the government is not collecting any taxes. There are no people working on it so they are not paying taxes either. When the pipeline is being built is the time to put the plans, teams and training into place.