Weekend freighter mishap a “dodged bullet,” says North Coast MP


– Northwest coast residents “dodged a bullet” this past weekend when a 187-metre bulk freighter suffered a steering mishap while running at full manoeuvring speed and struck shore two hours out of Kitimat, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said today.

“What we know from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board is that the 40,000-ton (dead weight) vessel veered sharply starboard and hit the beach at a depth of 400 metres early Saturday,” said Cullen, NDP natural resources and energy critic. 

Cullen noted that while no pollution entered the deep water, the incident must serve as a wake-up call about the dangers of oil tanker traffic along the BC coast.

“If that freighter had grounded itself in shallow water, the results could have been far more serious,” Cullen said, pointing out ships of the disabled vessel’s tonnage carry tens of thousands of barrels of bunker C oil or diesel for propulsion alone.

“Had this been an oil tanker with a full payload, it could have been catastrophic.”

Cullen said the incident “speaks directly” to why northwest residents are asking for an independent inquiry into Enbridge’s proposed twin pipeline project.  Enbridge would daily transport 700,000 barrels of oil and condensate between Alberta and Kitimat, where a 14-tank storage terminal would receive about 225 ships yearly. 

Cullen noted a two-day fact finding trip in which he travelled the proposed oil supertanker route from Kitimat to Hecate Strait with three northwest MLAs last July solidly confirmed the widespread concerns of many northwest residents over Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline and the associated oil supertanker traffic.

Cullen emphasized northwest residents aren’t opposed to responsible economic activity.  “Coincidentally, I just spent the weekend with over 25 community leaders from across the northwest who all agreed on the need for energy projects that strengthen our economy while respecting our northwest values and ecosystems.”

The Bahama-registered Petersfield was travelling between Vancouver Island and Kitimat, in Douglas Channel along the proposed Enbridge route, when the mishap occurred south of Grant Point.  Investigations by both the Transportation Safety Board and Canadian Marine Pilots’ Association are underway.

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Media calls: Shelley Browne (250) 877-4142; nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca