The cost of oil on B.C.’s priceless coast

By Chris Genovali and Misty MacDuffee, Vancouver Sun  June 18, 2011

If the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is approved, an estimated 225 supertankers a year would enter Kitimat to load about 318 million litres (two million barrels) of oil for shipment to American and Asian markets (“Pipelines to prosperity,” Harvey Enchin, Issues & Ideas, June 16). Loaded tankers would pass directly through Wright Sound, a body of water with more than 5,000 vessels moving through it annually. More than 400,000 vessel movements occur annually on the B.C. coast, so it is not surprising that accidents are common, including collisions, groundings and fires on board. Even vessels with state- of- the -art navigational equipment are vulnerable.

The marine approaches to the coast of northern B.C. and the port of Kitimat are dangerous. This area is at least as dangerous as Prince William Sound, where the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in Valdez Arm, in a navigable channel almost 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) wide. To enter Kitimat, supertankers will need to transit Douglas Channel, which is 1.35 kilometres (0.84 miles) wide at the narrowest point. Severe weather heightens the risk of shipping accidents.

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