Mike’s in charge of the proposed expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, BC, which includes new loading facilities, emergency response plans and equipment. He also oversees assessment of the safety and risks associated with tanker movements to, from and around the Terminal.

What’s your background in marine development?

I was born and raised on the West Coast. I’m a mechanical engineer, with a career that’s been focused on energy transportation. I’ve been working for Kinder Morgan Canada for 23 years.

About 10 years ago, I began a review of the safety and efficiency of tanker traffic calling at our Westridge facility in Vancouver harbour. As a result, I developed relationships with Port Metro Vancouver, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and the other regulators in an effort to ensure we have a world-leading system for the safe management of tankers in local waters. My role on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is to work with these agencies and the communities along the tanker route to ensure the safe transportation of petroleum continues beyond the Trans Mountain system.

Can you tell us about the people involved in this group of regulators?

We work very closely with the local marine community. One thing these people have in common is their dedication and commitment to the safe transit of vessels in local waters. These people have dedicated their careers to making sure marine transportation is conducted at the highest level. They’re passionate about ensuring the quality and safety of our coastal waters.

BC is a beautiful place, where we all live and play, and we want to keep it that way.

Can you tell us about Trans Mountain’s safety record?

Our Westridge Marine Terminal was built along with the pipeline in 1953. The dock we use today was built in 1957. In more than 60 years of operation, we’ve never had a tanker spill.

We’re very proud of our safety record. People are often surprised to find out that tankers have been calling here for 60 years. It’s important to understand that we take a lot of care in screening the tankers, supervising the loading and following the stringent procedures we use at the Westridge Marine Terminal.

How are local waters kept safe?

Canadian regulatory authorities work together to ensure safe shipping, including the safe passage of tankers in local waters. On the West Coast of Canada we have all the elements of a world class regime – navigation aids, established shipping lanes, tug escorts, vessel traffic monitoring, pilotage, inspections and mandatory spill response arrangements.

Tankers calling at Westridge Marine Terminal must follow strict protocols. They must be inspected by Transport Canada the first time they arrive in Canada and once a year after that.

Before vessels are allowed to enter our terminal, they must be screened and physically inspected by the Loading Master who stays on board until loading is complete.

The Canadian Coast Guard provides safe navigation aids as vessels travel through local waters. Port Metro Vancouver has rules for the safe conduct of vessels while in the harbour and the Pacific Coast Pilotage Authority makes sure pilots are on board to safely navigate through local waters.

What is done to ensure the safe passage of loaded tankers as they head out to sea?

When loaded tankers leave the harbour, there are two pilots on board – which is not done in other parts of the world – who are responsible for the vessel’s safe operation.

Tankers travel through a well-established navigation system maintained by the Coast Guard, which monitors its progress through Vessel Traffic Services.

A departing tanker has two tugs on the stern and one on the bow to escort it through Vancouver Harbour. After that, a single tug is tethered to its stern to guide it through Boundary Pass and Haro Strait. If the expansion proceeds, in addition to the existing escort requirements we have committed to having a tug accompany the vessel along the entire passage within Canadian territorial waters.

What are some of the additional safety measures the Trans Mountain Expansion Project proposes to undertake?

While we already have a marine safety system that meets high global standards, we have proposed additional measures to avoid accidents and to minimize the consequences if they occur. These measures include enhanced tug escorts, which will ensure there is a tug with the vessel throughout its passage to the open ocean.

As well, we are also working with Western Canada Marine Response Corporation to significantly enhance the spill response resources available in the Salish Sea. This program involves more than doubling the response capacity and halving the response times with new bases to be located along the local shipping lanes.

Why are you proposing these measures?

These measures are being proposed to address concerns we heard during the consultation we conducted along the pipeline and the tanker transit route. Despite the effective marine safety system already in place, people in the communities we visited expected more.

As well we believe the safe conduct of tankers is a critical part of executing the Project. That the pipelines and tankers can cause harm if not well managed is reflected in the strict regulation and management of these activities. We depend on these systems to deliver the energy that we use every day. To operate at all they have to operate safely.

We work hard to ensure the safe transportation of petroleum continues beyond the Trans Mountain system. We are working to address concerns we have heard from communities along the pipeline and the marine transportation route. We want to make sure that if the Project proceeds, it is done at the highest level, and we’ve made recommendations in our Application to do so.

What’s in place for spill response?

Spill response is an important aspect of our marine safety system. It’s mandatory for all large vessels to have an arrangement with the local spill response organization, which is Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC). It’s certified by Transport Canada to respond to spills up to 10,000 tonnes from tankers and other vessels.

As part of our Application, we’ve made a proposal to have that capacity doubled and for response times to be halved to provide an even more effective response in the unlikely event of an oil spill.

How has community feedback factored into Project planning?

As part of developing a project like this, it’s important to understand concerns from different communities, and we’ve done that. We’ve visited communities from Edmonton all the way to the west coast of Vancouver Island. We’ve tried to understand their concerns and have addressed those, as best we can, in our Project Application, now before the National Energy Board.

It’s important to be connected to the community to make sure we’re doing things right. We often find there are issues communities are aware of that we otherwise would have missed, so the consultation process plays a significant role. It starts with the initial concept and goes all the way through to construction and beyond into operations.