Transport Canada says its TERMPOL review of the Northern Gateway project “has not identified any regulatory issues or gaps or the need to consider any new regulatory requirements at this time.”
TERMPOL is short for Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transhipment Sites.
Transport Canada explains, “TERMPOL is an extensive, though voluntary review process in which proponents involved in building and operating a marine terminal system for bulk handling of oil, chemicals and liquefied gases can participate.”
Enbridge did take part in the process and “would be expected to fully implement its commitments and intentions” detailed in its submissions to the process.
Transport Canada said the Canadian Coast Guard reviewed the waterways the oil tankers would use, the size of the largest tankers, marine traffic density and factors affecting manoeuvrability.
And found that the proposed route complied with national and international regulations and provided “the required clearances for good vessel manoeuvrability and allowances for very large crude carriers (VLCC).”
It noted that was consistent with the results from simulations undertaken by Enbridge.
Transport Canada went so far as to say that those results showed VLCCs “are capable of navigating the entire route unassisted.”
In other words, escort tugs are not necessary, which Transport Canada says is consistent with the opinions of Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada and BC Coast Pilots .
However, Enbridge has committed to the use of such tugs and, as mentioned above, would therefore be expected to live up to that commitment.
The BC pilots had pointed to some narrow spots “as warranting caution for two-way traffic.” And the Canadian Coast Guard had noted the Lewis Passage-Wright Sound area “warrants some caution as a result of multi-directional traffic.”
However, in practice the pilots organisation would “adjust a vessel’s speed to avoid meeting other vessels in these areas.”
Transport Canada noted speeds may have to be adjusted to take into account traffic in the Wright Sound area.
The report also pointed out that with increased shipping, there could be an increased threat to the “well-being of marine populations [ primarily whales] along the shipping route.
And that Enbridge has said it would take steps “to avoid contact with mammals.”
Transport Canada’s summary concluded with, “While there will always be a residual risk in any project, after reviewing the proponent’s studies and taking into account the proponent’s commitments, no regulatory concerns have been identified for the vessels, vessel operations, the proposed routes, navigability, other waterways users and the marine terminal operations associated with vessels supporting the Northern Gateway project.
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“Commitments by the proponent will help ensure safety is maintained at a level beyond the regulatory requirements,” it added.
All that said, Transport Canada points out its decision in no way is a green light for the project, pointing out its process is not one “to approve or reject the Northern Gateway project. The proponent must obtain any such approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities in accordance with their own specific processes,” an apparent reference to the Joint Review Panel.
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After a false start in 2005, the TERMPOL process got under way seriously in May of 2009.
Since then Enbridge has completed 16 studies and submitted nearly 3,500 pages of surveys, technical data, analysis and other information.
The final report included 15 recommendations, including points covered above.
It can be found on the National Energy Board website.