Public deserves to know correct likelihood of possible spill by Vopack

Letter to Editor

To the Editor,

Prince Rupert, Metlakatla, Dodge Cove, Port Edward, Lax Kw’alaams, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Gitxaala, and Gitga’at are entitled to be informed, by Vopak, about environmental risk. I am concerned we have not been told the truth about the chance of a catastrophic accident impacting Skeena salmon; can we expect one once every hundred years, thousand years, or ten thousand years? The Vopak Application has phrases that suggest the likelihood is less than one in ten thousand years but that is nowhere near the true risk.

The total risk would include spills from bunker fuel tanks in existing container ships, bulk carriers, and other traffic, from a planned increase in traffic and from Vopak; both fuel tank spills and spills from tanker cargo holds and the one-kilometer pipeline jetty. We have information that just one component alone, of the several Vopak accident sources, could result in an accident every 1,340 years, so the total risk is far, far greater than that.

The size of a spill of heavy bunker from one of the freighters we see every day in the inner harbour, where the risk of anchor dragging resulting in grounding and a fuel tank breach is most serious, could be 2-5 million liters. So, we need to eliminate this risk by shifting vessels to safer outer anchorages when high winds are forecast for Dixon East. Eighty-six per cent of inner harbour drags occur when winds exceed 40 knots at Lucy Island or Holland Rock. Earlier this month, winds were forecast to be 60 knots in Dixon East and the Harbour Master, despite expert advice, left vessels to drag anchor in the inner harbour.

Vopak would add further potentially catastrophic risk if it ships diesel or similarly toxic products. The two main products Vopak is proposing (methanol and LPG) are not too concerning (we are waiting for more info on LPG). However, the public deserves to know the likelihood of an accident before Vopak is allowed to add to existing risk by shipping supertankers full of products like diesel which have components that dissolve in water and are highly toxic to salmon.

Please support us in our request for the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Vopak to supply the public, our community leaders, and environmental assessment representatives with the correct likelihood of a large accidental spill.

I would also like to point out, that when I last raised concerns about anchor dragging, Ken Veldman, Prince Rupert Port Authority, accused me of having my facts wrong and denied Umm Laqhab dragged anchor. However, it was Veldman who had his facts wrong, the Transportation Safety Board later confirmed the January 27, 2020 LPG tanker Umm Laqhab “risk of grounding” incident at Anchorage 9 near Kitson Island which I referred to.


Luanne Roth

1365 Overlook Street, Prince Rupert

778 884 5888