If the Trans Mountain Expansion Project proceeds, there will be an investment of more than $150 million in marine spill response benefiting all waterway users and the entire South Coast of BC.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) announced this week, it is moving forward with plans to build a new spill response base in Vancouver Harbour as part of the investment it will receive if our Project goes ahead.


The investment will fund five new response bases, about 115 new employees and approximately 26 new vessels at strategic locations along BC’s southern shipping lane. The enhancements also call for 24/7 operations at three of the bases, including the new Vancouver Harbour base. These improvements were based on risk assessments, product testing and oil spill modelling improvements, and will double response capacity and cut response times to half the mandated times.


WCMRC, the organization responsible for marine spill response on the West Coast, currently has a fleet of 17 vessels stationed in Vancouver Harbour moored throughout Burrard Inlet. The new Vancouver Harbour base would bring the vessels and crews together in one central harbour location and provide moorage for one of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ new fireboats.


People have raised concerns about a potential oil spill, especially if it’s diluted bitumen. After an extensive review, the National Energy Board found the probability of a major spill from an expansion-related tanker is very low. That’s because of Trans Mountain’s stringent loading procedures, Port of Vancouver’s tanker requirements, plus the Pacific Region’s proven marine safety regime with the fewest accidents despite experiencing the highest level of shipping activity in Canada.

This regime will be further strengthened through enhanced risk controls and spill response if the Project proceeds. Government researchers, academics and industry have undertaken detailed investigations into the properties and characteristics of dilbit, and found dilbit is no less safe to transport than other types of crude oil, and can be effectively responded to with the equipment and techniques currently available.

It’s also important to note Canada’s spill response regime is based on a strict ‘polluter pay’ principle. If a spill were to occur on our pipeline system, we’d be required to cover the entire cost of the cleanup – neither the public, nor any level of government would pay.

Oil pipeline companies are required by regulation to hold $1 billion in financial resources. We hold multiple reserves to ensure we have the funds to deal with an emergency situation, including cash, insurance and credit.

In the marine shipping industry, the polluter is also liable for all response costs through insurance and backed by an industry-funded Canadian and international compensation regime. In total, there’s about $1.5 billion available for oil spills from ships for any one incident. If that was ever to be exceeded, under the Marine Liability Act, a levy can be enacted of close to $0.50 on every tonne of oil imported or shipped in bulk in Canada.

That said, Trans Mountain has been safely loading vessels for more than 60 years at our marine terminal without a single spill from a tanker. While the region’s existing safety regime already meets global standards, the new investment in spill response will further improve safety and provide additional protection for the South Coast of BC.