Transport Canada study says proposed tanker route has acceptable level of risk, Cullen disagrees

Transport Canada has released a study says that tanker route is safe for the ships to travel with acceptable "residual risk."

Yesterday, Transport Canada released the findings of their report on the Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transshipment Sites (or TERMPOL) for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Project, a report that says massive oil tankers can safely travel to the potential port in Kitimat.

A TERMPOL Review Process is a wide-ranging review procedure where the proponents wishing to build and operate a marine terminal system for the bulk handling of oil chemicals and liquefied gas (in this case, Enbridge) can participate voluntarily.

Through this process, the proponent works with a review committee, which is chaired by Transport Canada and includes federal departments that have regulatory responsibilities, and other technical and subject matter experts, with Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Canadian Hydrographic Services, Pacific Pilotage Authority, B.C. Coast Pilots, District of Kitimat, Haisla Nation, B.C. Chamber of Shipping and Council of Marine Carriers being involved with this process.

Transport Canada’s report stated, “There will always be residual risk in any project,” but “no regulatory concerns have been identified for the vessels, vessel operations, the proposed routes, navigability, other waterway users and the marine terminal operations associated with vessels supporting the Northern Gateway project.”

The findings also stated that the proposed shipping route is appropriate for oil tankers, and that there are “no charted obstructions that would pose a safety hazard to fully loaded oil tankers,”

The report did warn that there are narrow sections of the route, where extra caution should be used, and that Enbridge should take steps to minimize harm to aquatic life.

Skeena-Bulkey Valley MP Nathan Cullen told the media he was not surprised or convinced by Transport Canada’s report findings.

“We clearly have a different threshold for the acceptable level of ‘residual risk’ these tankers pose to the marine environment. As I told the Enbridge Joint Review Panel last week, how realistic is it to believe that 15,000 supertankers will be able to safely travel the narrow Douglas Channel, let alone the Hecate Strait and devastating open ocean storms, over the life of the project?” Started Cullen, adding, “Accidents will happen.  While the risk may be small, the effects of a marine spill or leak are catastrophic, and are unacceptable to the people I represent and to 80% of British Columbians. Over 45,000 coastal jobs and dozens of rich northwest aboriginal cultures are at risk.  Piping bitumen to port is risky enough, after which tankers have to run a gauntlet of potential human and mechanical error, challenging channels, and the wild North Pacific.” He finished.

As expected, Enbridge is pleased with the reports findings.

“It is important for the public, particularly B.C. residents, to know that we’ve done our homework and that our marine plan has been thoroughly reviewed. I think the TERMPOL report underlines that what we are proposing is well planned and safe- and indeed would enhance safety for all shipping on B.C.’s north coast.” Said Janet Holder, Enbridge’s Executive Vice-President of Western Access and the senior executive with responsibility for Northern Gateway.

Speculations of the TERMPOL findings downplaying the risks to suit the government’s want for the project have arisen, however Transport Canada denies these claims.

In an exclusive email between the Prince Rupert Northern View and Maryse Durette, Senior Advisor in Relations for Transport Canada, Durette wrote, “A TERMPOL report is a technical analysis of navigational safety issues and not be interpreted as a statement of government policy, nor as an endorsement of the project,”