Monday, January 28, 2013

North Coast no place for bitumen tankers

By Adrian Raeside 
As a diesel mechanic, after service on WWII troop ships, my father worked on coastal vessels in British Columbia. I recall times when he returned home still shaken by gigantic storms of BC's north coast. Now, we have the NEB, staffed entirely by drylanders, mostly from Alberta, weighing the potential risks of transporting bitumen through waters that rank among the most dangerous in the world.

Writing in the North Shore News, in North Coast no place for oil tankers, Master Mariner Roger Sweeney discusses the finite risks of disaster if bitumen shipments begin on our north coast:
"...Risk is the product of likelihood that something will go wrong and the fallout if it does. Modern machinery, navigation aids, communications etc. can have zero failure rate, but those who operate the equipment, though better educated and trained than ever, always have been and surely will remain the major stumbling block to a foolproof system. Look no further than Titanic, Exxon Valdes, Queen of the North, Costa Concordia - all testament to human folly. Nor does the presence of a pilot on the bridge guarantee safe passage: We read that a senior B.C. pilot was directing the ship's movements when the Cape Apricot collided with the Westshore Terminal on Dec. 7, 2012 (Vancouver Sun, Dec. 18). Consider, too, that all the proposed tanker traffic would be in foreign-flag vessels, which do not always measure up to highest standards of safety, maintenance and crew competence.

"The likelihood of a significant tanker accident between Kitimat and the Pacific may be very small, but it is finite.

"The fallout could be horrendous..."
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