From the Hill

Dan Albas is member of Parliament for Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola. This column appears weekly.

As we approach the October election, one of the significant concerns in British Columbia is the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project and by extension the increase in related oil tanker traffic.

In previous reports I have referenced many aspects of this project however one area I have not covered has been about oil tankers.

The intent of my report today will be to provide some additional information on this topic.

For the record, there are five types of oil tankers that range in size from the 230-metre-long Panamax class up to the 415-metre ULCC class.

For a frame of reference the Exxon Valdez was the second largest VLCC class at 330 metres in length.

The tankers involved in the TMX project are the second smallest Aframax size at 245 metres.

For some comparison, the BC Ferries Spirit class of vessels are 167 metres long.

In terms of capacity, an Aframax tanker can carry up to 750,000 barrels of oil. The Exxon Valdez VLCC class can carry close to two million barrels of oil.

In terms of tanker sailings, the completion of the TMX project would result in roughly 34 tanker sailings per month. Currently there are five sailings.

One question on the minds of the many citizens I have heard from is: What has changed since the days of the Exxon Valdez?

One of the more significant changes relates to construction.

Tankers involved with the TMX project are double hulled construction, which is now subject to Canadian and International regulation.

Other changes relate to regulation and procedures.

Today’s regulatory requirements include a certificate of insurance, arrangements with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation for spill response readiness.

Both the tanker and the terminal are required to complete unique spill response plans.From a procedural stand point, a tanker at the berth is always enclosed with a pre-deployed oil spill boom with a second boom ready for deployment.

No tanker will enter the region without a professional pilot on board and a fully loaded tanker departing must carry two pilots.

All cargo loading is under the supervision of a loading master who must stay on board while the loading is underway.

Aside from these changes, there are also additional use of tethered and un-tethered tugboats acting as escort vessels throughout the arrival and departure process.

Aside from these measures, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation would also significantly increase both resources and location of resources for enhanced spill response capacity and faster response times.

I have provided this information for greater context and understanding of how marine oil tanker traffic would change with the expansion of the TMX project as well as how tanker safety has also changed.

My question this week relates solely to tankers: How do you feel about an increase in tanker traffic from five tankers up to roughly 34 a month?

I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.