Don’t judge tankers by their cover

The message box remains the same for Enbridge: don’t rush into judgment.

That came after a crash of the 41,000-deadweight ton bulk carrier Petersfield - loaded with soda ash and lumber products - was reported last week.

To opponents of the project, it was considered an example of the difficulties the Douglas Channel can pose to large transport ships. And for First Nations that live by the North Coast passage - who reported the accident before Transport Canada did - it was another reason to say they cannot support oil ports traveling within their territories.

However, an Enbridge Northern Gateway representative wanted to explain that if it’s proposed dual-pipeline project is given the go ahead by both the federal and provincial governments, oil transportation would be much safer than what was seen last week.

“What that accident does is reinforce what we have been saying for sometime, which is there are current risks to the Coast that we all consider very seriously,” said Steve Greenaway, Northern Gateway’s vice-president of public and government affairs.

He promised that measures would be taken to reduce the risk of an oil tanker getting into an accident on the North Coast. “The difference between what happened and what we would have in place is that a vessel - or tanker - would be tethered to an escort tug,” explained Greenaway.

Greenaway said that his organization had conducted similar types of events on a European simulator and in each case the escort tug tethered to the anchor was able to prevent such an incident from taking place. Enbridge’s proposed pipeline would link the Alberta oil sands to the port of Kitimat, which would be served by ships known as VLCC’s, or very large crude carriers, of up to 320,000 deadweight tons. The Exxon Valdez, which ran aground and caused a massive oil spill off Alaska in 1989, was 211,000 DWT.

That is one of the major concerns B.C. coastal First Nations leadership have when it comes to the project.They fear that if a ship should end up like the Petersfield it could spill oil into a body of water that already has its share of industrial challenges.

Enbridge plans to invest over $100 million in first response capabilities plus the cost of building an entire fleet of escort tugs - including a deep sea tug that would be capable of going to the aid of a large ship that was drifting towards our coast and prevent such an accident from occurring.

“Accidents do happen, incidents do happen. But that’s why we have redundancies built in virtually every step of the way to prevent the consequences of those accidents,” said Greenaway.

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