Better late than never, I’ve been plugging my way through the marine side of Enbridge’s application to bring supertankers into B.C.’s northwestern waters.

Last weekend, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw Enbridge’s huge advert in The Vancouver Sun claiming its Northern Gateway project would make “B.C.’s North Coast safer for all vessels”.

The company must be cursing the timing of the terrible oil spill now reaching the shores of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.

Enbridge’s proposal doesn’t involve an oil rig, but the spill demonstrates yet again what oil response experts have always said: once the oil is in the water, you’re hooped.

Anyway, this weekend I downloaded Volume 8A of Enbridge’s proposal to the National Energy Board – the volume dealing with marine transportation.

A lot of the info is simply background filler, and despite being 152 pages long, details are very sketchy.

For example, talking about the type of tankers to be used, Enbridge’s report notes: “At this stage of the project, there is limited information regarding marketing plans, trade routes, or details of potential charterers or their tankers and, as a result, specific plans or technical documents of the design ships cannot be provided.”

However, here are some the key parts of the plan, as described in the report.

How much extra traffic?

About 220 vessels per year would travel through Douglas Channel, an increase of 86 per cent compared to current traffic to Kitimat. At Wright Sound, the project-related tankers would cause a 13 per cent increase in reporting traffic. And at the Prince Rupert MCTS station, project-related tankers would cause an increase of 3 per cent for the total reporting traffic.

What route would the tankers take?

The tankers would use one of three main routes:

1. The Northern Approach (for tankers arriving from or departing to Asian ports). 158 nautical miles. Via Haida Gwaii through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, Browning Entrance, Principe Channel, Nepean Sound, Otter Channel, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

2. The Southern Approach (Direct) (for tankers arriving from or departing to west coast ports south of Kitimat) 98 naut. miles. Via Queen Charlotte Sound, Hecate Strait, Caamaño Sound, Campania Sound, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

3. The Southern Approach (via Principe Channel), (in weather conditions where Caamaño Sound cannot be used) 133 naut. miles. This route goes via Hecate Strait, Browning Entrance, Principe Channel, Nepean Sound, Otter Channel, Squally Channel, Lewis Passage, Wright Sound and Douglas Channel.

What kind of tankers would be used?

Tankers calling at the Kitimat Terminal would, most likely, be chartered. They would all be double-hulled, due to international regulations requiring all tankers in international trade to be double hulled by 2010.

Most likely, Aframax or Suezmax tankers would carry condensate and the larger VLCC (supertankers) and Suezmax tankers would carry export oil cargo.

Pilots, escort and harbor tugs

Local pilots would board and assist all incoming and outgoing tankers. During good weather and in daylight, helicopters might be used to lower pilots onto the tanker.

A close escort tug would be used for all laden and ballasted (empty) tankers, beginning at the pilot boarding stations (Triple Island and proposed sites in Browning Passage and Caamaño Sound) to and from the marine terminal. The close escort tug would normally be positioned approximately 500 metres astern of the tanker, or as directed by the shipmaster or pilot during transit.

* A tethered tug, in addition to a close escort tug, would be used for all laden tankers in the Confined Channel Assessment Area (CCAA). The tug would be tethered to the stern of the laden tanker at all times, ready to assist with steering or slowing down.

* Three or four tugs for berthing and two or three tugs for unberthing the tanker. One of these tugs could also provide escort services.

Rescue tugs

At least one of the escort tugs would be equipped to provide ocean rescue capability and would be available to any ship in distress along the north coast of British Columbia.

Tanker speed

Average tanker speeds close to shore would be 8 to 12 knots: eight to 10 knots in confined areas and 10 to 12 knots in straight channel areas such as Principe Channel and Douglas Channel.

Navigation aids

Radar would be installed along important sections of the Northern and Southern Approaches to monitor all marine traffic and provide additional guidance to pilots and other vessels in the area.

(Posted: June 8, 2010 by Alison Bate)
RELATED:
* What if a tanker heading for Kitimat hit another vessel?
* Enbridge’s marine safety plans
* Emergency prevention, preparedness and response – report by Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel

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