Kinder Morgan’s pipeline ambitions on West Coast raises oil tanker concerns – by Jeff Lewis(National Post – March 16, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

VANCOUVER – An inky-blue dawn breaks across Burrard Inlet as the oil tanker British Beech glides into view.

On the bridge of the tugboat Raven, captain Don Westmoreland, 59, peers at a video monitor that registers the vessel’s bearing and speed. “That’s our ship right there,” he says. Two 2,500-horsepower engines barely gurgle as the Raven tethers to the tanker’s stern for the trip under Second Narrows Bridge.

The 230-metres long British Beech has arrived from Cherry Point, Wash. this morning. In 24 hours, it will slip silently back out past Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver loaded with 350,000 barrels of Alberta crude oil, bound for Long Beach, Calif.

The journey is as much a fixture of port traffic today as a sign of things to come. Roughly five tankers berth every month at Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.’s Westridge marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C., the terminus of the Trans Mountain pipeline. That number could climb to 30 per month, or 400 per year, if plans to more than double capacity on the Edmonton-to-Vancouver pipeline are approved, providing a potentially lucrative outlet for Alberta’s oil sands and raising concerns about Canada’s ability to handle a coastal oil spill.

“They’ve been shipping oil out of here for 50 years with not one incident,” said Mr. Westmoreland, whose employer, Seaspan Marine Corp., provides escort services to the vessels. “That’s a pretty good record. There aren’t many other industries that can make a statement like that.”

The prospect of an ocean-going tanker filled with Alberta crude oil sailing past Vancouver’s Stanley Park every day is not universally loved on the West Coast.

The mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby are both dead set against it, as is the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose land, complete with several condominium developments, sits across from the Kinder Morgan dock on the opposite side of Burrard Inlet.

An expanded Trans Mountain pipeline system — capable of transporting 890,000 barrels per day, from 300,000 barrels today — would increase the number of tankers sailing through Burrard Inlet from 3% of all Port Metro traffic today to 14% by 2017, according to Kinder Morgan.

Those plans are haunted by the “vivid” memory of the Exxon Valdez wreck, said Kevin Obermeyer, president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada, which monitors marine traffic on B.C. coastal waters.

Regulations governing tanker movements have “changed dramatically” since the supertanker ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, Mr. Obermeyer said. The Valdez was a single-hulled vessel with no marine pilots and no escort tugs travelling in confined waters, he said.

Tankers sailing into Canadian waters, by comparison, are subject to an extraordinary set of rules.

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