Potential marine traffic should be kept in perspective, says marine shipper

Captain Stephen Brown of the BC Chamber of Shippers says the Douglas Channel is straightforward and not a large risk to tankers.

If the Exxon Valdez ship had been built to modern specifications there likely would never have been an oil spill.

That’s what Captain Stephen Brown says, who is the president of the BC Chamber of Shippers.

Brown is a sitting member of the Enbridge-sponsored Community Advisory Boards.

Brown has an added layer of expertise for this area in that he sailed for 30 years in the Douglas Channel with the company that took most of Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminium, and 80 per cent of Eurocan’s paper.

From his experience he said the Douglas Channel poses no unique challenges.

“The Douglas Channel is actually a very straight forward waterway by any national or international comparison. It’s very straightforward to navigate, its deep water, it’s well marked and the contours are very clearly visible by eye or by radar if it happens to be nightime,” he said.

He said technical changes to modern tankers and anticipated new tanker safety regulations means that Canada will have oil response and prevention capabilities which continue to improve already high capabilities.

And even if the Douglas Channel sees all proposed projects materialize, Kitimat won’t compare in riskto other ports as far as marine safety, even given the geography.

“If you…look at the busiest port on the coast of British Columbia today, that’s Vancouver. Vancouver receives around 3,000 ships a year,” also noting Singapore’s port which had 126,000 ships in 2013.

“That’s quite a narrow piece of water,” he said of Singapore. “In terms of traffic density we would actually have quite a ways to go to even begin to catch up with other parts of the world.”

He added, “I understand people’s concerns, I think they have to understand the Douglas Channel in the context of what is really a busy waterway. And of course those questions, when they come up, need to be answered…Even if every single one of the projects were to materialize, by no means could this be described as a busy waterway.”