No matter which side of the debate you are on regarding the Enbridge oil pipeline and the proposed oil tanker traffic in the waters off the west coast the following series is a must read. Written by a Captain of a chemical tanker who regularly plies the affected waters and indeed uses the terminal at Kitimat, his three (thus far) articles '54 North and Plan to Nowhere Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 raise some issues that must be addressed and clarify who is responsible for what when it comes to navigation in these waters.
What follow is a very small clip that outlines the scale of these tankers as compared with the current traffic in the Straights.
“The federal government actually cut the budget of the one department responsible for upgrading the vessel traffic services in the critical area. As has been pointed out previously, Enbridge which originally stated that they would be installing new VTS radar and nav aids has made it clear that they have no intention of bearing the cost and are negotiating with the federal government.
None of this is aided by the offerings of Enbridge. This disingenuous bit of propaganda needs to be addressed.
At the link above, Enbridge provides a picture of a chemical tanker arriving in Kitimat on 16 March 2012, and then goes on to provide numbers which demonstrate a continuous flow of tankers between 1982 and 2009, and why don't all you environmental activists just chew on all those wonderful facts.
Well, since I commanded a chemical tanker into the port of Kitimat, I suppose I should clear up some of the fog which the Enbridge spin-merchant has dumped.
Chemical tankers are considerably smaller than the ships Enbridge is proposing to bring to Kitimat. Most chemical tankers max out at about 40,000 DWT.
Enbridge is proposing the following size ships:
AFRAMAX - 120,000 DWT
SUEZMAX - 200,000 DWT
VLCC - 315,000 DWT (eight times the size of a large chemical tanker)
Enbridge tries to downplay the cargo by suggesting that the current shipping traffic is carrying petroleum products, therefore they are not introducing anything new. Except that they are.
Current and past product into and out of Kitimat was mostly methanol and condensate. Petroleum products they are, but they are actually highly evaporative liquid by-products of natural gas. A spill would cause some immediate damage to be sure, but it would evaporate in short order and there would be little in the way of a persistent effect.
What Enbridge is proposing, (and what they are attempting to favourably compare to a highly evaporative liquid), is actually a liquefied, unrefined, thick crude oil, much more akin to tar than it is to methanol. A spill of that type of product would create lasting devastation for decades - if you could ever get it cleaned up at all.”
Then there is this:-
Unlike the waters around southern Vancouver Island and the south BC coast generally, none of the sea areas, inlets, arms, passages or any other tidal waters area ( in or near the Hecate Strait) or port have coastal radar coverage intended to monitor or aid marine traffic. In fact, there is not even a traffic separation scheme intended to prevent the interaction of ships in the restricted waters of the inside passage.
Go read these comprehensive and detailed assessments regarding tanker traffic to Kitimat.
A Tip o the hat to The Galloping Beaver for this one.