Personal observations on pipeline after years in transportation

We read with interest the articles that were printed in the Campbell River Mirror regarding the Kinder Morgan pipeline and written by Rod Link and Barry Gerding.

I would like to share with you and your readers personal observations coming from 33 years of employment in the transportation of products to and from the Port of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Port of Vancouver is a very busy one. In addition to sea buses and pleasure craft, vessels carrying cargo such as wood products, oil, sulphur, grain, coal and fertilizers to name a few move in and out daily. In addition, there are cruise ships during the tourist season that have priority to enter and leave the inner harbour. Each ship requires a deep sea pilot to bring them in. A pilot is an individual with a Master’s Certificate who is experienced in navigating the coastal waters of British Columbia. Usually, they are former tug boat captains.

In English Bay, there are 17 anchorages. In the inner Harbour of Vancouver there are seven, one of which is designated ‘Emergency Only’. There are four anchorages in Burrard Inlet and one of those is designated ‘Emergency Only’. Frequently, vessels will anchor off Victoria and/or Nanaimo while waiting to be assigned an anchorage in English Bay, or waiting for permission to enter the inner harbour of Vancouver. The ships entering the inner harbour will anchor to either wait for an available berth, or move directly to berth at one of the many terminals receiving, or loading product. Due to the geographic layout of the inner harbour, adding anchorages is unlikely if at all possible.

To enter the inner harbour of Vancouver a ship is required to travel with a pilot under the Lion’s Gate Bridge (aka the First Narrows Bridge). The harbour itself is shallow. Depending upon the cargo and designated anchorage, the tide has to be deep enough to accommodate sailing. To go further inside the harbour up Burrard Inlet piloted ships have to pass under the Iron Worker’s Memorial Bridge (aka The Second Narrows Bridge) as well as the adjacent Canadian National Railway Bridge. They have to do this at slack tide due to the existing riptide through the narrows.

Cruise ships require two pilots with one on the bridge at all times. These ships manoeuvre themselves into and out of berth under their own steam. Depending on the length of all other vessels entering the inner Harbour of Vancouver at least two tugboats are required to put ships to berth. From May through September the demand for experienced deep sea pilots for cruise ships, which have priority, creates a shortage and as the volume of traffic in and out of the harbour increases, there is an even greater need for experienced pilots, tugboats and tugboat captains. There is no readily available source for experienced deep sea pilots and there are no guarantees that an accident will not happen under their guidance. History tells us that even such experienced master certified pilots make mistakes.

British Columbia’s weather plays a vital role in the movement of vessels along the coast and entering or leaving the inner Vancouver harbour. On Oct. 13, 1979 under zero visibility, the MV Japan Erika, carrying a cargo of logs, struck the CN Railway Bridge causing partial collapse and total closure of Burrard Inlet. Rail transport across the narrows that delivers product to and from terminals on the North Shore ceased. Ships sat idle at anchor. Time and millions of dollars were lost. There is always the potential for an accident in any busy port. The risk increases exponentially the busier the harbour becomes. The cargo carried by the MV Japan Erika was inert. Any future accident, wherever it may occur within, or outside the inner harbour of Vancouver, may involve a much more dangerous and/or explosive cargo with disastrous effect. Time and money was lost as a result of this accident; however, it could have been worse with lives being lost.

Worry already exists that the increase in tanker traffic from the Kinder Morgan terminal in Burnaby as a result of the twinning of their pipeline will go from approximately four oil tankers per month to a projected 34 would inevitably increase the chances of a spill. More tanker traffic moving in and out of Vancouver’s inner Harbour via the Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits and the Salish Sea increases the potential for not just an oil spill, but any kind of marine accident. Passenger ferries sailing from Vancouver to Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island as well as the Gulf islands and from Victoria to Port Angeles in Washington State also use these water ways. Of major concern is whether or not the National Transportation Safety Board is prepared.

The material used to build the Kinder Morgan Pipeline in 1953 is probably of a lesser quality than is used to build pipelines today; however, over time this pipeline will weaken whether it is material failure or damage due to movement in the geological fault that runs through Burnaby Mountain. In fact, several leaks along the pipeline have already occurred and evidence of movement is in the constant shifting and repairing of pavement on Gagliardi Way leading to Simon Fraser University. It is reported that little opposition was voiced to the initial pipeline especially as pertains to the route taken through national and provincial parks. That may very well have been, but currently there is vehement objection to the construction of a second pipeline through such environmentally-sensitive, important public areas. To say that climate change is a “significant public policy issue driven by what seems to be an increasing number of ‘motivated environmental groups’” is too exclusive. A great number of the general public of British Columbia who have no affiliation with such groups are concerned about climate change, pollution and a multitude of related damages caused by emissions from the extraction i.e. fracking and subsequent use of fossil fuels.

The recent announcement by the federal government that they are spending approximately 4.5 billion dollars to purchase the Kinder Morgan Pipeline using Canadian taxpayers’ money is astounding. Once again, there is vehement objection to spending our hard earned money to support a foreign owned company. Canada has always been governed by a democracy not a dictatorship.

Don Teed

Campbell River