Report punctures double hulls

Opponents and proponents of crude oil tankers plying BC’s northern coastline continue to thrust and parry.

Opponents and proponents of crude oil tankers plying BC’s northern coastline continue to thrust and parry.

The latest set of arguments against a plan by Enbridge to increase the frequency of visits and size of tankers operating in coastal waters is offered by Katie Terhune on behalf of Living Oceans Society (LOS).

Terhune’s report says numerous safety concerns associated with double-hull tankers, including corrosion and stress levels, make the vessels unsuitable to be painted as a panacea for oil spill prevention.

The report, Tanker Technology: Limitations of Double Hulls, concludes that Enbridge’s pledge to use double-hulled tankers to service its Northern Gateway project will not ensure the BC Coast is protected from catastrophic oil spills.

“Double hulls are one of the key safety measures of Enbridge’s Marine Plan for its pipeline project, but it’s an empty assurance that provides a false sense of security,” said Terhune. “In fact, double-hull tankers may actually increase the risk of oil spills.

“Although double-hulled tankers have the potential to reduce spill volume in minor groundings or low energy collisions, they are susceptible to a range of construction, maintenance and operation issues that make them more prone to leaks and failures including accelerated corrosion in their cargo tanks and high operating stress levels,” she said.

“Most importantly, double-hull tanker designs do not address human error, which is responsible for up to 80 percent of total oil spills worldwide. No safety measure can ever fully eliminate the risk of an oil spill. Tankers are run by people and people make mistakes. No technology can change that fact.”

The report also pointed out there will be no dedicated rescue tug on standby in the open waters if a tanker loses power or has a steering failure.

“Instead, Enbridge will send tugs from its Kitimat Marine Terminal with an estimated response time of 10-18 hours during which time a disabled tanker may drift ashore and ground.”

Terhune warned people not to become complacent. “Despite improvements in oil tanker regulation and technology, and a general decline in oil spills in recent years, accidents continue to occur. They are an inevitable part of shipping.”