Ship access being examined for Watson Island LNG terminal

Site access is one major consideration being examined as Watson Island LNG (WILNG) moves forward with its plans for an export terminal at the former pulp mill site.

Ed Neibauer, who formed Watson Island LNG in April, said an issue currently on the group's radar is harbour navigation and safety.

"One of the big concerns we had was the size of the vessels we could get into Porpoise Harbour," said Neibauer, adding WILNG has met with the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) to discuss the topic.

Michael Gurney, manager of corporate communications for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, confirmed the port had a conversation with WILNG, but said nothing has been approved at this time.

"We've had an initial discussion with the proponent, but we have not conducted any analysis of issues related to LNG carrier access to the Watson Island area via Porpoise Harbour," said Gurney.

"Porpoise Harbour has significant navigational restrictions and it's far too early to say how they might apply to this proposed project."

Neibauer said the plan thus far is to serve Handymax cargo ships, that have a capacity of less than 60,000 dead weight tonnage, and to only allow travel during high tide.

Before anything is approved, the port authority is requiring WILNG to carry out simulations with professional pilots to ensure there's plenty of depth for the vessels and travel through Porpoise Channel and Harbour can be done safely.

Neibauer said safety is something WILNG is committed to, promising the best available current technology would be used.

"Even though we are a small company, we will meet the standards of all the major ones," he said.

"We definitely don't want to have any problems with safety issues," he also noted.

The City of Prince Rupert, owners of the Watson Island site, entered into an exclusivity agreement with WILNG earlier this month, who are looking into constructing a small LNG facility at the site to ship product to oversea markets.

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