metronews.ca WEEKEND, April 5-7, 2013
New pipelines could shake up response regime Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) is keeping one eye on the future as B.C. pushes forward with proposed pipeline projects. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway in Northern B.C. and the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline have generated plenty of public awareness and concern about increased oil-tanker traffic along the coast. The Kinder Morgan proposal alone would boost tanker traffic through Vancouver’s port to 408 per year from 32. WCMRC is legally required, by the Canada Shipping Act, to have the capacity to respond to a 10,000-tonne spill. It is currently capable of responding to a spill twice that size. But the proposed projects, if approved, would mean a major shakeup to the province’s oilspill response system. “If these projects do happen then our regime would
also need to be updated,” said WCMRC South Coast area manager Trevor Davis. “As things change, our strategies also have to change. We are Transport Canada-regulated, and they’re looking at what is the right number. Is it the 10,000 tonnes like we’re currently at? Probably not.” Marine activity out of Kitimat due to Northern Gateway would have the most substantive change. WCMRC’s Burnaby warehouse and office currently serves as the headquarters for the organization. Because of the sheer scope of Northern Gateway, WCMRC would likely have to set up its largest operation in Kitimat once it is designated a public port. “We (in the Lower Mainland) would probably become a small office and Kitimat would become the big one,” said Davis. “If that project does go, we should step up.”
Kitimat designation Transport Canada announced last month it intends to designate Kitimat as a public port. The move, part of a number of federal initiatives designed to increase oil-tanker safety, means vessels and port operators will have to abide by stricter safety regulations under the Canada Marine Act. That would include oilspill response times set by Transport Canada. For example, WCMRC must be able to respond to a spill of less than 150 tonnes within Port Metro Vancouver’s boundaries (already a designated port) in less than six hours.
Ready to respond Equipment used in oil-spill containment and cleanup sits ready for deployment at the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation warehouse in Burnaby on Tuesday. WCMRC has three warehouses (the others in Prince Rupert and Duncan) stocked with response equipment and 12 other equipment caches scattered throughout the coast. Eric Dreger/the canadian press
vessel M.J. Green is tied to a dock beside Canada Place in Vancouver ready for deployment on Tuesday.
WCMRC has 31 oil-response vessels, 52 trailers and 14 support vehicles available to respond to oil spills. That fleet grew late last year as it took possession of the M.J. Green, a high-speed skimming vessel anchored at the Vancouver harbour. It’s able to drive right into an oil spill and clean 10 tonnes of oil off the surface in as little as half an hour.
WCMRC hasn’t been without practice dealing with big oil spills. A crew was sent to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. The organization was also able to take advantage of the experience by purchasing equipment — such as satellite-tracked buoys — used in the cleanup efforts at vastly discounted prices. metro
WCMRC trains at least 200 members of the Fishermen’s Oil Spill Emergency Team every year to build up additional capacity. They also regularly conduct cleanup training and simulations with the community. Their last exercise involved the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, a drill that involved booming off protected land in the Burrard Inlet. metro