Saturday, February 25, 2012

Northern Gateway Marine Shipping TERMPOL Report (Transport Canada and CBC News)

Photo Credit CBC News

Earlier this week Transport Canada issued their TERMPOL Review Process Report for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.  The Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems (TERMPOL) is set out in Transport Canada’s Technical Publication TP 743, TERMPOL Review Process 2001 found HERE .  The focus of the process is on marine safety and accident prevention.  TC Marine Safety division believes that adequate and appropriate information was provided and concluded that the mandate of safety and accident prevention had been met to move oil from Kitmat to the Pacific Ocean.  Reference is even made to the proponent (Enbridge) having made commitments to an extent greater than the regulatory requirements.  This information is now provided to the Joint Review Panel currently reviewing the project in the broader perspective.  Collectively, all the information acquired during the review process from the public, from industry, from local communities, from agencies is critical and important.  Each contributes its realities as part of a thorough review.

While I have been reasonably current with the news as it is made available from the hearings, I have not read the full EA submission, nor have I been pouring over the hearing transcripts.  It may well be that the answers to my musing below are in these documents in some form or another.  So my questions below merely reflect the inquisitive thoughts that come to mind as I read the TC Report.

The current planning contemplates a ship loaded every ~1.5d  throughout the year.  Very large double hulled tankers of specified design with full state of the art technology for communications, navigation and other controls.  What is the average speed through 500km+ fiord transit?  How much time does each ship spend in the fiord?  How many ships are in the fiord at any one time?  What risk was assessed relative to the potential for traffic congestion and the potential for the multiple being greater than the sum of the parts? What is the cumulative traffic for Kitmat (and/or other destination ports with interacting traffic patterns) and their respective schedules?

While the project as presented meets the Canadian Coast Guard guidelines for safe shipping channels, does this mean that it has adequately integrated the risk of even a small event of non-compliance?  I would think that it would be in everyone's interest to elevate the threshold to provide additional buffer of any number of parameters. 

Why are we importing 11MM tonnes of condensate?  Do we not have enough of that or comparable material in western Canada or adjacent vicinity to the oil sands?

The hunting and/or foraging strategies of many marine mammals is auditory based.  Recent research off the coast of Vancouver Island is lending credibility to the notion that some noise levels are quite disruptive to feeding behaviour and success.  Has the traffic type and frequency been considered into the long term anticipated growth of this type of activity and the interaction with marine mammals using the fiord?  Ship and propulsion system design are hopefully integral in that discussion.

The report finishes with a list of recommendations.  These are intended to be brought forward into the decision report process  from the joint review panel to the Minister.  As with the Mackenzie Gas Project, there will be hundreds of pages of recommendations (if the process gets that far).

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