On December 5, 2018, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) filed direct evidence with the National Energy Board (NEB). The submission is part of the Reconsideration Hearing for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project that is considering any necessary changes or additions to the NEB’s May 2016 Recommendation Report, in light of the inclusion of Project-related marine shipping.

WCMRC is the only Transport Canada-certified marine response organization on Canada’s West Coast. Its mandate is to ensure a state of preparedness is in place if a marine spill occurs and to mitigate the impacts on BC’s coast. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic and environmental sensitivities, and the safety of both responders and the public.

Here are some highlights from the evidence filed by WCMRC:

Enhanced Response Regime Program

As part Trans Mountain’s original Facilities Application to the NEB, Trans Mountain made a commitment to minimize oil spill risk and enhance the response regime along the shipping route between Westridge Marine Terminal and Canada’s Territorial Sea Limit.

WCMRC has been contracted by Trans Mountain to implement the enhanced response regime program, as part of NEB Condition 133. In addition to paying the required membership fees, Trans Mountain is also currently paying a secondary fee structure to WCMRC to fund the enhancements.

The spill response enhancement program will see more than $150 million invested in new equipment, including 43 new response vessels – doubling the current fleet to 88 vessels, and eight new spill response bases, including two 24/7 on-water bases; one in Vancouver Harbour and the other in North Saanich. Approximately 120 new employees will be hired, most of whom would be assigned to new bases on Vancouver Island.

These enhancements will double the capacity and significantly increase response capabilities along BC’s South Coast by reducing times for initiating a response to a maximum of two hours (down from six hours) for Vancouver Harbour and six hours (down from 18 – 72 hours) for the remainder of the Salish Sea shipping route to the 12 nautical mile limit.

The equipment and resources would be available to all users of the marine network in British Columbia for any type of oil spill, further improving safety for the entire marine shipping industry as well as residential, commercial and other users who enjoy the Coastal waters.

To date, WCMRC has completed extensive work on the program. However, the enhancements are currently on hold as a result of the recent federal court ruling that nullified the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Geographic Response Strategies

Globally recognized as a fundamental element of oil spill response, Geographic Response Strategies (GRS) are an integral component of WCMRC’s preparedness regime and are aligned with the federal government’s transition to a risk-based approach to response planning.

WCMRC has developed a coastal mapping program in partnership with Coastal and Indigenous communities that gathers existing data to identify coastal sensitivities to create GRS, which are operational documents that detail the location of vulnerable areas and describe how to protect them.

They are created to safeguard valued components, such as archeological and cultural sites, critical habitats and infrastructure, public beaches and parks, sensitive shorelines and water-dependent commercial users. This allows for the most efficient deployment of response resources, maximizing coastal protection, reducing response times and minimizing risk.

WCMRC is working to develop GRS for the entire coast of BC and has developed more than 400 strategies for the Salish Sea.

Ongoing Exercises and Training

WCMRC maintains a continuous improvement regime to ensure the capacity to respond to spills under a variety of circumstances. Equipment deployments and tabletop exercises typically include entities that would participate directly in the response and public safety activities. These key stakeholders often include municipal first responders, local authorities, Indigenous groups, provincial ministries, regulators and federal department representatives, in addition to WCMRC personnel and contractors.

In addition, WCMRC personnel and contractors also regularly participate in WCMRC member exercises as well as exercises hosted by the Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Defense and Emergency Management BC, and by regional partners and entities in the United States.

  • View WCMRC’s full submission here.

WMCRC works closely with Indigenous and coastal communities to integrate their input into areas of spill response pre-planning and readiness in their area. 

It is a fully industry-funded organization with more than 2,300 members. As required by the Canada Shipping Act, membership is mandatory for all vessels of more than 400 gross tonnage and oil transporting vessels of more than 150 gross tonnage calling on Canadian ports, as well as for oil-handling facilities receiving or shipping oil across their docks.