Letter: No increase in tankers out of Vancouver

Monday, May 13 2013

One expects silly arguments in election campaigns, but the one that takes the cake this time around goes, “Oil tankers have been sailing out of Vancouver for 30 years without incident, so a major increase in tanker traffic is nothing to be concerned about.” The trouble is, the same reassurance could have been offered to Alaskans, right up to the day the Exxon Valdez ran aground. (And prior to March 24, 1989, the Port of Valdez had far more sailings than Vancouver has had.)

But apart from the argument’s facetiousness (Pompeii was earthquake-free before Vesuvius blew), the notion that Vancouver has had no incidents is a stretch, unless the only incident you count is a catastrophic Exxon Valdez-type spill. There was, for instance, the time the Rubin Lotus hit the Arcturus in February 1990. Only 40 tonnes of fuel oil was spilled, but despite ideal weather conditions, equipment right at hand, and a ready pool of workers, only 16 tonnes of oil was recovered – at a cost of over $1,000,000.

The same month, the supertanker Palmstar Orchid left Vancouver amid great fanfare. At 100,000 DWT (dead weight tonnes), the Palmstar Orchid was the biggest tanker ever to fill up in Vancouver to that time. The trouble was, she was 10,000 DWT over the 90,000 DWT limit then in place for the harbour. Two days later, one member of the ship’s crew took a hostage, ending in a murder-suicide. Otherwise, the sailing was uneventful.

A seven-fold increase in transits, by bigger and bigger tankers, through waters that have never been adequately studied for navigational hazards for such super-sized ships, nor for the environmental or economic consequences of a spill – no thanks!

~ Bob Bossin,

Gabriola Island