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Proposed Tanker Routes

Oil tanker traffic used to be unofficially banned on B.C.’s North and Central Coast. Recent re-interpretations of the ban by Canada’s Conservative federal government, however, threaten to enable projects like Northern Gateway. If the project is approved, oil tankers will navigate B.C.’s North and Central Coast as well as the narrow channels that lead to Enbridge’s planned marine terminal in Kitimat.

The proposed tanker routes have been determined based on discussions with the Pacific Pilots Authority, BC Coast Pilots and the Canadian Coast Guard. Although laden tankers will be tethered to tugs throughout the confined channel area, the tankers will have no tugs with them in open ocean waters. Should a tanker require open-ocean assistance from a tug in the event of an emergency, Enbridge estimates a transit time of 10 to 18 hours.

B.C.’s northern waters are known for terrible weather and navigational challenges. Enbridge itself has stated that “extremes in temperature, visibility and wind force all have an effect on navigation in the region”1. Hecate Strait – which every tanker will have to cross – is particularly dangerous because winds and seas can change quickly. It is considered to be the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world2.

Data Source:
The tanker routes were digitized by Living Oceans Society from maps in Enbridge’s regulatory application1.

References:
1 Volume 8A: Overview and General Information - Marine Transportation. http://www.northerngateway.ca/files/application/Master_Vol%208A_Final_12May10.pdf
2 Canada, Environment Canada. 1999 Marine weather hazards manual: a guide to local forecasts and condition - West Coast. Vancouver, B.C.