BP tanker cracks

Vancouver Sun
February 2, 2012


Hull crack raises concern for increased
oil tanker traffic off B.C.
  By Larry Pynn, Postmedia News

VANCOUVER  An Alaskan oil supertanker that regularly travels off the British Columbia coast developed a crack in its outer hull and is undergoing repairs while a U.S. Coast Guard investigation continues.

Although no oil leaked from the double-hulled Alaskan Navigator, the Jan. 25 incident has heightened concerns about increased oil-tanker traffic on B.C.’s north coast associated with the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project to Kitimat, B.C. The incident has gone unreported until now.

“This is exactly what scares us on the coast,” said Marven Robinson, a councillor with the Gitga’at First Nation, who was involved in the 2006 rescue following the sinking of ferry Queen of the North off the B.C. coast.

Robinson said in an interview Wednesday that double hulls are no guarantee against an oil spill, adding he is also concerned about the potential for ballast water carried by tankers to introduce foreign marine organisms that could harm the local environment.

Built in 2005, the 287-metre-long Alaskan Navigator has a capacity of 1.3 million barrels of oil.

The vessel is owned by the Alaska Tanker Company, which is contracted by British Petroleum to deliver crude oil from Valdez, Alaska, to refineries in the lower 48 states.

Katie Terhune, energy campaigner with the Living Oceans Society, said development of a hull crack in a relatively new tanker raises concerns about older tankers that might visit Kitimat.

“The U.S. tankers travelling from Valdez . . . have some of the highest standards in the world,” she said. “Yet, as this incident demonstrates, accidents happen. They’re an inevitable part of shipping.”

The Alaskan Navigator had unloaded 500,000 barrels of oil at Long Beach, California, and was northbound 80 nautical miles off Newport, Oregon, en route to Cherry Point, Washington, just south of the Canada-U.S. border, when the ship’s instruments showed excess water in a ballast tank.

Art Balfe, chief administrative officer with the Alaska Tanker Company, said the crew was able to pump the excess water out while continuing to Port Angeles, Washington, for repairs.

The U.S. Coast Guard is working with the company to determine the cause of the crack. Washington State’s department of ecology is also involved.

Balfe said the crack near the ship’s bow is about 20 centimetres long by 1.5 centimetres wide and has the appearance of a puncture. Repairs are ongoing and the ship should sail again later this week.

The inner hull containing the oil was not damaged and no spill resulted. The outer hull is 19 millimetres thick, the inner hull 20 to 25 millimetres thick; the two are separated by 2.7 metres, Balfe said.

“This is the first time this has happened with one of our ships,” he said. “It doesn’t happen every day but we are taking care of it.”

The Alaskan Navigator is 185,000 deadweight tonnes. Formed in 1999, the company operates three other similar-sized tankers.

Enbridge expects about 220 ship calls a year to Kitimat under its Northern Gateway project. An estimated 25 per cent of those would range to 320,000 dead weight tonnes, 50 per cent in the range of 120,000-200,000 tonnes and 25 per cent in the range of 80,000-120,000 tonnes.

“That’s ramping it up big time,” Robinson said of the increase in tanker traffic.


~ by fredfelleman on February 2, 2012.

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