The Canadian government has taken steps, and will formalize them in early 2017, to ban the tankers carrying crude oil from a section of the northern British Columbia coastline. The ban covers an environmentally sensitive area that includes the Great Bear Rainforest and Sea. The area also includes First Nation land. Along with the ban the government has promised to make changes that will improve maritime safety.
Moratorium on Crude Oil
The main impetus for the ban is to protect the environment, but safety for humans and wildlife alike has been considered in implementing the new legislation. The new law will ban the transport of crude oil and persistent oil products carried by tankers. The oil products included in the ban are those that are heavy and that slowly break up and dissipate when spilled into the water. Products that are lighter, including liquefied natural gas, naphtha, propane, jet fuel, gasoline, and others are exempted from the ban, as are ships carrying less than 12,500 tons of crude oil.
The move to bank the shipping of crude oil through this area of the British Columbia coast is not without controversy. While it is considered a victory for environmental activists and First Nation residents of the area, others believe it will have a negative effect on the proposal for a pipeline. The ban will likely prevent the pipeline, which would carry bitumen from Alberta to the coast.
While environmentalists are pleased that the shipping ban will likely halt the projects, proponents of the pipeline have argued that it has been reviewed more carefully than any similar project in the country. They also say that the pipeline project has been approved by more than half of the affected First Nation tribes who want to see it bring economic growth to the west coast.
Oil Tanker Safety
In addition to the ban on crude oil tankers that aims to prevent environmental catastrophes, the new legislation will also address maritime accidents and injuries in an attempt to improve safety in the industry. One issue with the legislation is that the ban will divert hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil to ports on the south coast of British Columbia. Increased traffic there may present serious safety issues if the ports are not prepared to handle it.
Safety is a big concern wherever large tanker shipping is set to increase. These are huge vessels that must be carefully maneuvered in and out of ports for picking up and delivering crude oil cargo. Common tanker accidents include running aground in shallow waters and colliding in busy ports with other ships, bridges, and other structures. These accidents can lead to overboard falls, workers getting crushed between two vessels, oil spills, falling objects and cargo that may strike workers, and a number of other serious injuries and even fatalities.
How the ban on the crude oil tankers in northern British Columbia will ultimately effect the environment and marine safety remains to be seen. If the backers of the ban are correct, an environmentally sensitive area will be protected and workers will need to be more cautious in the busy ports to the south.