Safe movement of petroleum products

How does the port authority ensure the safe movement of petroleum products through the port?

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is mandated under the Canada Marine Act to protect the environment while ensuring products are shipped safely and in support of Canada’s trade objectives.

For about 60 years, tankers have travelled through the Burrard Inlet without incident. In that time, safety standards have continued to become more stringent.

All tankers calling on Vancouver are double-hulled, which means there are two layers of heavy steel protecting their cargo. All tankers are approved for use by reviewing their operating history and current condition. Transport Canada Port State Control monitors every vessel that comes into Canadian waters and can access vessel information including its history and known deficiencies. Further, each petroleum terminal typically conducts its own stringent inspections on all tankers calling the terminal.

All tankers and all vessels over 350 gross tons entering Port of Vancouver waters must have at least one licenced B.C. Coast Pilot in charge of the navigation of the vessel. Large tankers have two senior B.C. Coast Pilots on board using the latest high precision marine navigation equipment in addition to the ship’s fully trained crew.

When transiting the Second Narrows, all tankers are subject to tidal current restrictions, and all loaded tankers moving under the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge are assisted by tugs boats that are attached by large ropes to the vessel, in accordance with the port authority’s Traffic Control Zones set out in the Port Information Guide.

The Port of Vancouver sees about 30 to 50 crude oil tankers per year, out of a total of about 3,150 vessel calls annually. With the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, this number could increase to about 400 tankers per year, or about 11 per cent of our total vessel traffic. Other ports see far more such traffic. The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands sees about 8,200 tankers each year and Singapore hosts about 22,200 tankers annually.

Like other cargo ships, the size of new tankers continues to grow. However, there are no plans to exceed the current maximum size of tankers calling at the Port of Vancouver primarily because of restrictions created by the Second Narrows. The largest tanker the port can accommodate has a capacity of 120,000 tonnes. Even then, these vessels can only be loaded to 80 per cent capacity due to depth and other restrictions.

The safety and environmental protection of our waterways is of paramount importance to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. As a federal port authority, we hold our terminals and tenants accountable to a high standard of operations and we will continue to do so.