The Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tanker shipping link proposed by Enbridge will have stringent regulations, and safety measures that exceed minimum Canadian standards, said company spokesman Paul Stanway.
Stanway’s comments were prompted by a Gazette article titled Double-hulled tankers not the answer, Apr. 28 that summarized a report by Katie Terhune of the Living Oceans Society, LOS. Terhune suggested the public not be lulled into a false sense of security by double-hulled tankers and argued that deficiencies exist in that design.
In emails and a followup phone interview Stanway took issue with Terhune’s suggestion that double hull tankers may actually increase the risk of oil spills.
“Double-hulled vessels are the international standard, and a requirement in Canadian waters,” said Stanway. “The advantages of double-hulled vessels have been thoroughly examined by groups such as the US National Research Council. There is no evidence that we are aware of that would suggest double-hulls ‘increase the risk of oil spills’.”
Stanway said Enbridge would ensure ships meet Canada’s high standards.
“Under our program, before they are allowed to enter Canadian waters, all Kitimat-bound oil tankers must be double-hulled, no more than 20 years old, and certified by an independent international vetting agency,” said Stanway.
Regarding response times the Enbridge spokesman said, “The suggestion that it would take up to 18 hours to respond to a drifting vessel in the Hecate Strait seems to be based on the assumption that all five of the planned rescue tugs would be in Kitimat – which would not be the case: For example, the plan is to have tugs stationed at the Anger Island Anchorage in Principe Channel.”
Additional elements of the Enbridge plan aimed at averting disaster include:
• All tankers will be helmed by a licensed B.C. marine pilot familiar with local waters, both into and out of the channel.
• Operational safety limits will be established to cover visibility, wind and sea conditions. Vessel speed will also be reduced in the marine channels to between 8 and 12 knots.
• Powerful custom-built escort tugs will provide close escort to both loaded and empty tankers to ensure safe passage through coastal routes. A second (tethered) escort tug will be attached to the stern of loaded vessels and will prevent them from going off course in the event of a mechanical or control problem.
• The escort tugs will have extensive first response capabilities to provide immediate assistance, if required.
According to Stanway the Enbridge plan will benefit all shipping plying the route to and from Kitimat through the installation of state of the art monitoring equipment and additional navigational aids:
• Northern Gateway will support the installation of a radar system to cover critical route sections. This information will be linked to the Prince Rupert Marine Communications and Traffic Service station and a monitoring station in Kitimat for all marine traffic to provide guidance to pilots and other vessels in the area.
• Northern Gateway will also support the installation of additional navigational aids such as navigation beacons, buoys and lights throughout the channel area.
Three types of tankers are proposed for the Kitimat terminal. They are the Aframax that is minimum 80,000 tonnes, the Suezmax that is 160,000 tonnes average, and the VLCC (Large Crude Carrier) that is 320,000 tonnes maximum. Enbridge expect the types to make 50, 120 and 50 annual visits respectively.
Stanway points out, “Tankers have been navigating B.C. waters for a century, carrying methanol and ammonia as well as crude oil, without a major mishap. Over the past 25 years, more than 1,500 ships have safely travelled to Kitimat.”