Pacific Coast marine traffic is increasing as Canada relies heavily on a competitive international shipping industry to transport its trade with countries other than the United States. Transport Canada reports that every year, ships registered in foreign countries carry approximately 99.9% of Canada’s deep-sea (non-U.S.) cargo. As Canadians increasingly seek trading opportunities beyond the traditional U.S. market our reliance on international shipping markets increases.
Canada (including the Pacific coast) is also situated along numerous international shipping routes that link North America with other regions of the world. Vessel activity on Canada’s west coast includes both international shipping traffic and local transits between BC ports by ships including recreational and fishing boats, ferries, cruise ships, tankers, tugs and barges, and freight vessels. Ships engaged in international trade call on BC ports, bound to or from destinations including the US and several Asian nations. Ships are traveling the North Pacific Great Circle Route between Asia and North America’s Pacific ports, will pass near the west coasts of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, even if traveling to or from US ports. Also, the Strait of Juan de Fuca has heavy traffic going to and from both Canada and the US.
Regarding Pacific coast marine traffic, the 2013 West Coast Spill Response report data indicates that in the Pacific Northwest, Neah Bay had 11,137 annual vessel transits, Point Roberts 10,390, North Georgia Strait 3,644, 3,644, Alaska Inside Passage 2,338, Queen Charlotte Sound 1,130 and Dixon Entrance 496 annual vessel transits.
In mid-October 2014 British Columbia was reminded of our global interdependence and reliance on shipping markets when the container ship Simushir was en route to Russia from Washington State when it lost power on Thursday. Efforts by the Canadian Coast Guard vessel, the Gordon Reid were partially successful in that they were able to secure a line and tow the ship further offshore, nevertheless, the tow line snapped three times and sent the vessel adrift again. Eventually, a U.S. tugboat arrived and brought the vessel that was carrying hundreds of tonnes of fuel, to Prince Rupert port. Maritime policy and transport experts K. Joseph Spears and Darryl Anderson, Managing Director Wave Point Consulting responded to numerous print and TV media requests to comment on the subject mishap and our state of preparedness for such events. Pointing to their published research,these two experts noted that a “key issue” is that B.C. does not have a dedicated tug assist vessel in place to handle large ships like the Simushir. Other jurisdictions in Washington State, Australia, Western Europe and Northern Europe all have dedicated tug assistance ships in place. Anderson and Spears noted that it was first recommended that Canada establishes a dedicated tug assist system over 20 years ago following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
The article Adrift: How a Stricken, Fuel-Laden Cargo Ship Nearly Ran Aground on Canada’s West Coast provides further details on the incident.
In response to increasing Pacific coast marine traffic significant current work by the CCG in regards to marine emergency response and environmental protection is about to take place. Canadian Coast Guard Assistant Commissioner, Western Region Roger Girouard in a November 2013 interview with BC Shipping News (that went to print before to the mid-October Simushir event) remarked that the CCG would be addressing the Enbridge North Gateway conditions set by the National Energy Board and the Tanker Safety Panel recommendation. Over the next 18 months, the CCG will be doing a couple of deep review of changes in shipping traffic and vessel composition on the Pacific Coast. Two geographic areas will receive specific emphasis during the review:
– Vancouver to Juan de Fuca.
– Kitimat/Prince Rupert to high water.
Also, both reviews Girouard stated will be looking at the traffic increases for LNG & Oil tankers – also mentioned the issue of increasingly larger ships. He noted the CCG efforts will involve collaboration including First Nations, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, industry, and others. He indicated in his BC Shipping News interview that critical questions for the review will include asking whether we need response and mitigation tools? Does the north coast of BC need new radar, video cameras, or do we have the right amount of tugs to do escort work?
Use this CCG review to contact Wave Point Consulting team members to ask them questions about how the latest CCG efforts to get a line on Pacific Coast marine traffic could impact your industry or community. Or offer your insights into whether you think initiatives such as those in Washington State and Alaska mentioned below would be beneficial on Canada’s Pacific coast.
The International Tug of Opportunity System: ITOS accurately tracks existing tugs in the Puget Sound area, using Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder technology, so they may be quickly identified to respond to a vessel in distress due to a loss of power or steering. It was voluntarily sponsored and developed by an international industry coalition with the goal of providing U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard first responders with a tool to improve marine transportation safety.The International Tug of Opportunity System (ITOS) accurately tracks existing tugs in the Puget Sound area, using Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder technology, so they may be quickly identified to respond to a vessel in distress due to a loss of power or steering. It was voluntarily sponsored and developed by an international industry coalition with the goal of providing U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard first responders with a tool to improve marine transportation safety.
Emergency Towing System (ETS): ETS program came into existence following the near grounding of the SALICA FRIGO on March 9, 2007, in Unalaska Bay. The Mayor of Unalaska convened a Disabled Vessel workgroup to address the possibility of future groundings and to discuss local emergency response solutions. The ETS consists of a Tow Line capable of towing a distressed vessel, a Messenger Line to assist in deploying the Tow Line, lighted buoy, and chafing gear. There are currently two sizes of ETS utilized in Alaska. The larger size (10-inch tow line)is capable of towing ships greater that 50,000 DWT. The smaller system (7-inch tow line)can tow vessels less than 50,000 DWT. Additionally, the messenger line is capable of towing vessels under 2000 DWT. The ETS may be deployed from the stern of a rescue tug, or lowered to the ship’s deck via helicopter.