Tags: Marine Safety
Author: Northern Gateway
Dated: 21 December 2011
In yesterday's Marine Safety blog post, Are BC's waters too dangerous?, there were some thoughtful comments that touched on really important issues and asked really good questions. To best answer them, we've engaged the help of Chris Anderson. Chris is a Master Mariner and the lead Marine Advisor for the Northern Gateway project.
Richmond and Harold both asked simliar questions about weather, night travel on the waterways and additional safety measures. Here are Chris' responses, in italics:
Hi Richmond and Harold. My name is Chris Anderson a Master Mariner and the lead Marine Advisor for the Northern Gateway Project. Thanks for adding your comments and questions. Because both of your comments are very similar, I’ve decided to answer them together.
Richmond, regarding your inquiry about the safety measures other than double hull tankers and pilots that the project will have in place, I invite you to watch our video, if you haven't already, that provides an extensive overview of the proposed marine safety initiatives, by clicking here. While some items such as double hulls and the use of pilots are required under Canadian statutes, Northern Gateway has also voluntarily committed to
Admittedly, our video is long, but there are a lot of safety measures in place that are worth learning about.
Harold and Richmond, you are quite right in your comments on daylight hours. Northern Gateway clarified its position on this matter in recent communications with the Joint Review Panel. Comments in our Application to the effect that “Transits of the CCAA will usually occur during daylight hours” were made in error. That said, with the navigation technology onboard modern tankers, assisted by planned upgrades to navigation aids and the addition of land based radar, the marine channels can be safely transited during both daylight and at night. Marine terminals in northern latitudes such as Kitimat, Scotland, Sweden, Norway and Alaska have operated for decades under similar conditions.
There are some differences between Port Metro Vancouver and Douglas Channel; however, we do not believe weather is one. Weather conditions in the open waters of Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance, as is the case with waters off the West Coast of Vancouver Island leading to Port Metro Vancouver, can be severe and need to be taken into consideration for marine operations.
Conditions along the BC Coast are definitely no worse than other parts of the world with a long history of tanker transits, such as the North Sea or the waters off Japan. Similarly conditions in the marine channels leading to and from Kitimat are not that different from that of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. Tanker transits to and from Kitimat, like Port Metro Vancouver, include passage through marine channels and a risk of grounding, which is why both Port Metro Vancouver and Northern Gateway support the use of tug escorts.
The tug escorts proposed by Northern Gateway will be much more powerful than any tug currently available on the BC Coast and will be able to assist tankers in the open waters if required. One key difference between the Port of Kitimat and Port Metro Vancouver and Puget Sound area is that the risk of collision is much lower in the Kitimat area due to the much lower traffic density.
Another commentator, Ron, asked a question about our spill response plans should a tanker incident occur. Here's Chris' answer for Ron:
Ron, we do not disagree that while mitigation measures, such as tug escorts, may lower the risk so far as is reasonably practicable, a spill could still occur. That is why Northern Gateway has committed to implementing a response capability that would exceed Canadian requirements and increase the response capability for the entire Canadian west coast.
Despite the significant investment that this response preparedness would require, we would hope never to see it used for an actual spill. Historic marine spill incidents have resulted in extraordinary improvements to tanker design, construction and operation, and in oil spill response requirements and capability.
Northern Gateway believes learning from other incidents from around the globe is critical to the safety and success of the Northern Gateway Project. In the years following the Exxon Valdez incident, over 11,000 tankers have been safely escorted by tugs through Prince William Sound.
Norway, one of the world’s leading seafood producers, is also one of the largest oil producers (some terminals see more than 2000 visits per year). Norway’s marine terminals, like those of Scotland and Sweden, have operated safely for decades without a major tanker incident, in part, because these countries employ many of the same strict safety protocols and risk mitigation measures being proposed by Northern Gateway.