Trans Mountain has loaded marine vessels with petroleum since 1956 without a single spill from tanker operations. The region’s robust marine safety regime is well managed, with important risk controls for all traffic and for oil tankers in particular. Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Pacific Pilotage Authority and Port of Vancouver establish, implement and monitor regulations and practices for oil tankers. Highly-trained and qualified pilots ensure tankers navigate our local waters safely. Tankers are held to strict internationally-accepted build, manning, maintenance and operating quality standards mandated by the International Maritime Organization and Canadian Shipping Act, and verified by Class Societies. Additionally, marine spill response plans ensure quick action in the event of a spill. Trans Mountain has proposed additional risk controls and enhancements, which build on the current marine safety regime.

Some of these measures include:

  • Laden tanker tug escort will be expanded to cover the entire tanker shipping route through the Strait of Georgia and between Race Rocks and the 12 nautical mile marker to assist with navigation
  • Pilot disembarkation will be extended to take place near Race Rocks further west than the pilot boarding station on Brotchie Ledge in Victoria (pilots have been trained to disembark by helicopter)
  • Enhanced Situational Awareness techniques will be applied that will require:
    • Safety calls by pilots and masters of laden tankers
    • Notices to industry issued by Pacific Pilotage Authority
    • Tactical use of escort tug along shipping route
    • Boating safety engagement and awareness program led by Pacific Pilotage Authority

Find out more about the additional proposed marine safety enhancements.


Ships calling at Westridge Terminal must pass various inspections, and meet the strict regulations established by the International Maritime Organization. Ships calling at Westridge Terminal are built according to regulations established by the International Maritime Organization and the vessel's flag state (the state under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed). The ship's construction is documented and enforced by the classification society (a non-governmental organization that establishes and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and offshore structures). To meet these requirements, tankers are built with double hulls sub-divided into smaller tanks, segregated cargo tanks and a variety of other modern safety precautions. Canada, as a signatory, has adopted the above rules.

Vessels are inspected by Transport Canada who administers Canada's program for Port State Control. Canada is a signatory to international conventions on Port State Control which ensure a consistent inspection regime and sharing of inspection reports among signatory countries. Under these conventions Transport Canada inspectors have access to and share vessel inspections with other signatory countries so a vessel's performance can be tracked.

Additionally, all seafarers (crew members onboard the vessels) are trained before being issued certificates of competency in accordance with International Maritime Organization requirements.

In addition to inspections and screening conducted by other agencies before being accepted for scheduling, any vessel proposed to come to Westridge must go through Trans Mountain's pre-screening process. When a ship is proposed by a pipeline shipper to receive cargo at Westridge Terminal, it is first pre-screened by the Trans Mountain Loading Master. This process utilizes industry databases, plus Trans Mountain's own records. This pre-screening ensures that key criteria such as age, design, crew, vessel certificates, and operating history are reviewed and approved well in advance of the vessel's scheduled arrival.

Additionally, the Canadian Shipping Act makes it mandatory for all large vessels, including tankers, to have an arrangement with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) for spill response services, prior to arrival in the port. WCMRC is the Transport Canada Certified spill response organization for the West Coast and is an industry-funded organization that provides spill response equipment and emergency management capacity for responding to marine oil spills.

Before entering national traffic zones, vessels must provide ample notification to the Canadian Coast Guard, who monitors their journey. Vessels must travel within their designated shipping lanes. At least 24 hours prior to arrival to Canadian waters, vessels must provide notice to the Canadian Coast Guard and request permission to enter Canadian waters.

Once the vessel arrives in Canadian waters, the Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) monitor its progress. They monitor the vessel's progress throughout its passage to Vancouver. Through a combination of Radar, AIS (automated identification system), and direct radio communication, progress is monitored and movements are coordinated with other Masters and Pilots. You can view all vessels in real time here.

Canada and the USA have a treaty to ensure coordination of marine traffic in the international waters of the Salish Sea. Find further detail about the coordination between Canadian Coast Guard and United States Coast Guard here.

When the vessel reaches the Victoria Pilot station, a licensed Canadian pilot boards the ship and this pilot is responsible to ensure the safe conduct of the vessel in local waters.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority is the federal governance organization responsible for administration of the Pilotage Act on the West Coast and the BC Coast Pilots Association is the organization of approximately 100 pilots licensed under the Act to provide pilotage service on the west coast.

All large foreign vessels are required to have a licensed pilot to ensure the safe conduct of the vessel. A pilot is required to be aboard whenever the vessel is moving within designated pilotage waters, which include the Salish Sea and Port Metro Vancouver. When tankers are loaded, they must have two pilots on board, one providing direction to the ship's master and the other providing additional oversight of the bridge.

Under a pilot's guidance and supervision, vessels navigate through established shipping lanes to the Port of Metro Vancouver. The Canadian Coast Guard's Marine Traffic Services monitors and coordinates their progress.

When arriving in Port Metro Vancouver, ships will often go to a designated anchorage location before berthing at the Westridge Terminal. Before arriving in the Port of Metro Vancouver jurisdictional area, if required, the vessel will be assigned an anchorage by PMV based on availability and operational requirements. The vessel will typically anchor at designated locations in English Bay, or designated locations off Westridge depending on timing of tides, the Westridge loading schedule, and the ship's own requirements for provisioning and maintenance.

Although the Pilot leaves the ship when it's at anchor, there is one aboard anytime the vessel moves – two if it's loaded – even if just from anchor to dock or back.

Trans Mountain and Transport Canada and other parties conduct various inspections within Port Metro Vancouver by. Before a tanker is allowed to transfer cargo at the Westridge dock, Trans Mountain's Loading Master conducts a physical inspection of the vessel to confirm information provided in the pre-screening process and to ensure the vessel and its crew are prepared for a safe loading. While aboard the Loading Master also conducts a ship-shore safety meeting that is attended by the ship's officers and the Westridge terminal staff. The meeting is used to review safe loading practices, communication protocols, and emergency response requirements.

Transport Canada also inspects ships at their first arrival in Canada, and once each year after that. This may occur at Anchor, or alongside Westridge. Canada is signatory to Paris MOU and Tokyo MOU. These are the conventions on international coordination of inspection requirements.

Canada has adopted MOU requirements as part of the Canadian Shipping Act. Further, Transport Canada has access to records from all Canadian signatories, as well as those from outside signatory jurisdictions.

The Loading Master stays aboard the tanker throughout the loading process to monitor the vessel and its crew during operations and to ensure efficient communication between the terminal and the ship.

Once the berth is available, vessels are assisted by pilots and docking tugs and made fast at Westridge dock. The Loading Master inspects the vessel and stays aboard the tanker throughout the loading process. In addition to vessel regulations, we operate the Westridge loading facility in accordance with regulations established by the Canada Energy Regulator, Transport Canada, and other regulatory organizations.

After the vessel is made fast, a containment boom is deployed to enclose the ship and terminal in case of any possible spill. A second backup boom is on hand in case of emergency. Additionally, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation moors a skimming vessel at Trans Mountain's utility dock.

When a vessel is ready to load, loading arms and vapour recovery lines are connected. Hydrocarbon vapours displaced from the ship's cargo tanks are collected through the vapour recovery lines, and are incinerated to remove volatile emissions and odour. Loading typically takes 24 to 36 hours, depending on the size of the vessel.

A Trans Mountain Loading Master is onboard throughout the process, monitoring the condition of ship and crew. The Loading Master is the ship-side contact for communication with the Terminal, and has the authority to stop the loading process at any time.

When loading is complete, the vapour recovery lines and loading arms are disconnected and the containment boom is removed, making the vessel ready to cast off.

The Loading Master stays onboard until two pilots come to move the vessel away from the dock. The ship will cast off, and depending on tide levels, either transit the Second Narrows outbound, or go to anchorage until a suitable high tide.

While all large foreign vessels require a licensed Canadian pilot, loaded tankers require two.

When a vessel commences transit, two pilots are onboard and two large tugs are tethered to the stern, with one smaller tug escorting at the bow. These remain with the vessel through the Second Narrows transit.

The Port of Metro Vancouver's Harbour Operations Manual defines the Second Narrows as a Movement Restriction Area (MRA). Rules for transits through this area include vessel size and draft restrictions, slack water transit windows, requirements for tug escorts, and are limited to one vessel at a time.

The two tethered tugs will stay with the vessel for transit through the remainder of the harbour until past First Narrows. Escort tug requirements resume when the tanker approaches Boundary Pass in the Gulf Islands.

All large foreign vessels are required to have a licensed pilot to ensure the safe conduct of the vessel. A pilot is required to board whenever the vessel is moving within designated pilotage waters, which include the Salish Sea and Port Metro Vancouver. When tankers are loaded, they are required to have two pilots on board – one to provide pilotage and one provide additional oversight. The vessel's transit through the Vancouver Harbour, including the MRA, is monitored by the Canadian Coast Guard's MCTS.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority requires loaded tankers transiting through Boundary Pass and Haro Straight to be escorted by a large tug that is capable of steering and stopping the ship in an emergency. Escort requirements established by the Pacific Pilotage Authority require a single large tug to be tethered to the vessel from the East Point on Saturna Island until Race Rocks (just off Victoria).

The two pilots disembark at the Victoria pilot station near Broachie Ledge. The vessel's progress is monitored by Canadian Coast Guard's MCTS.

The Marine Communications and Traffic Services of the Canadian Coast Guard monitor vessel traffic throughout passage of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, as per the inbound process. A rescue tug is located at Neah Bay to provide assistance to any ships in distress in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

Ship continues to destination, following regulations set forth by International Maritime Organization.

We use the following preventative measures at the Westridge Marine Terminal to ensure safe loading of petroleum products.

  • Facilities designed and operated to meet Canada Shipping Act, Canada Energy Regulator and Transport Canada requirements
  • All employees trained in operations, safety and emergency response procedures
  • Regular field testing of Westridge-specific emergency response plan
  • Westridge-specific Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) spill response plan
  • Pre-screening of vessels before acceptance and scheduling
  • Physical inspection of vessels prior to berthing and loading
  • Boom enclosure of vessel throughout loading operations
  • Westridge Loading Master remains onboard ship throughout loading to monitor performance and ship-shore communications
  • Vapours discharged from vessel during loading are collected and incinerated onshore