Tanker accidents are too frequent

If someone had three car accidents in three years, I'd be worried.

Editor:

Re: Mountians out of mole hills, July 30 Northern View.

“You can’t point to the grounding of the Amakusa Island as a reason to oppose tanker traffic anymore than you can point to a fender-bender as a reason not to drive”.

If someone had three car accidents in three years, I’d be worried.

The port, while planning for the possibility of an oil terminal on Ridley Island, recently had a risk assessment done which gave predictions for “oil spills” and for “incidents”.  “Incidents” are basically freighter fender-benders. They got it so wrong that some people can’t help but smile when they look at the half sunk Amakusa Island. One woman on the Atlin dock winked at me and pointed: “That’s impossible!”

“Based on current traffic levels and vessel mix, and after adjusting for local factors, a commercial vessel incident could be expected at a frequency of once every 23 years” reads the Prince Rupert Port Authority Marine Risk Assessment.

Is it possible that this “one in 23 years” prediction is correct? In January 2012 the container ship, the Cosco Yokohama was hit by a rogue wave in Dixon Entrance. It nearly capsized and lost containers overboard.

In November 2012 the Hanjin Geneva grounded while piloted and though not officially escorted, a tugboat was only minutes away. Now in July 2014, the Amakusa with two pilots on board hit bottom, tore a gash in the hull and took on water.

The chances of tossing heads three times in a row are half-by-half-by-half. So a very rough estimate of the odds of these three Rupert commercial shipping incidents would be 1 /23 x 1 /23 x 1 /23 That works out to one chance in 12,000 or pretty well impossible – if the port’s risk assessment is right.

If those who want an oil terminal in Prince Rupert think their neighbours are fear mongering and not good at understanding the odds, maybe they should take a closer look at that assessment report. The adjustment for local factors seems to have put it out by a whopping factor of 10 times.

It has further serious under-estimations; it doesn’t include incidents at anchorage, it underestimates the probable number of tankers compared to full operation at an oil terminal and it uses a highly optimistic estimate of the value of tethered tugs and pilots.

Worse yet it doesn’t consider spills at the terminal itself, which account for a third of oil spills which in this case would be right in the Skeena estuary.

Luanne Roth

T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation