In the run-up to last week’s Kitimat public information session by Enbridge on its Northern Gateway project, some opponents had been zeroing in on the fact the company would not be responsible for cleaning up any spill.
While the company’s marine advisor doesn’t dispute that, Chris Anderson points out the company will still play a very active role in ensuring safety on the water.
“Obviously, once [the oil] is clear of the pipeline, it becomes the responsibility of the ship owner or the ship operator,” he said, adding, “On the water, as on the land, it is polluter pay.”
But what Enbridge can do is ensure it has some form of control to make sure ships using the terminal are vetted by a third party organization before they ever enter Canadian waters and that they have a certificate of liability.
Anderson pointed out that any vessels coming into coastal waters must have a contract with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.
What Enbridge wants to do, he explained, is have any contract between a shipper and the WCMRC tied into the Enbridge response plan so that the shipper must sign off on that plan.
“That way we can direct to a certain extent what happens on the coast.”
Enbridge also wants to enter into a “joint venture arrangement” with the corporation “to up the ante on the response capabilities” in the event of a spill.
Saying the response time required under the Canadian Shipping Act is inadequate from Enbridge’s perspective, he explained, “Their 10,000 tonnes response capability is 72 hours plus whatever travel time they have to bring the equipment up from Vancouver or Victoria.”
While there is some spill capability in Prince Rupert and Shearwater – down the channel – at the moment it is “a lower end capability”, in the range of 500-1,000 tonnes.
What Enbridge wants to see is the equipment levels and response capability raised to give a response time of 12 hours anywhere on the coast at the 10,000 tonnes level.
Kitimat would be set up at the same level.
With these “major stations” in place, the company would then look to smaller coastal communities to see if it could negotiate some sort of capability in those communities as well.
Enbridge’s first response would be its fleet of tugs which he said could get major pieces of equipment such as booming and barges in place in 6-12 hours.
As for the tankers themselves, Anderson stressed, “The vetting processes they have nowadays…are very, very strict.”
That vetting process also required any vessel that did have a problem – be it a spill or being written up for being lax in any of its inspection – to record it immediately on documentation that anyone could read online at Q88.com.
And almost all modern terminals vet ships before they arrive “because they don’t want to take the risk of a clunker giving them a problem.”
Anderson added Enbridge will not be accepting any tankers that are more than 20 years old.
Turning to the Douglas Channel, he said Enbridge had taken six BC pilots so far to Denmark to use a “full mission bridge simulation” set up to check if the route was navigable for large tankers, including “the bendy bits”.
What they found is it was possible to negotiate the channel without assistance by limiting the rate of turn so they have more control over manoeverability.
“There’s lots of water and lots of width there to navigate a ship,” Anderson said. “It is actually safer than some of the ports in Europe.”
(Next week, a differing view on Gateway’s marine issues.)