Massive Richmond-bound oil tankers pose risk for Fraser River

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      They’re as huge as the Exxon Valdez tanker that ran aground and spilled more than 11 million gallons of oil off Alaska’s coast in 1989.

      Designed to pass through the Panama Canal, these Panamax-class vessels are the type of ships that will arrive at B.C.’s northern coast if the Enbridge pipeline gets built.

      About the length of three football fields, these massive tankers will also sail into the Fraser River and over Highway 99’s George Massey Tunnel should airline companies get provincial and federal approval to build a new jet-fuel facility in Richmond.

      As someone who has been involved in the campaign against tanker traffic along the B.C. coast even before the Exxon Valdez tragedy happened, Richmond’s Harold Steves is worried about this $135-million project.

      “Whether it’s captain error or whether it’s tides or winds, if something happens for a ship to break up like that in the Fraser River, it would destroy the entire Fraser River estuary both in Canada and all the way down to the USA, probably for a hundred years,” Steves told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      According to Steves, tankers are the least-talked-about aspect of the fuel facility proposed by the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation.

      Much attention has been paid to the route of the airline consortium’s suggested pipeline that will pump the jet fuel from a tank farm at the foot of Williams Road on the south arm of the Fraser River to Sea Island, where the airport is located.

      “These are tankers as big as the ones Enbridge is talking about,” Steves said. “They’re 900-foot Panamax tankers and…they can only go over the top of the [George Massey] tunnel once a day at the highest tide. The probability of an accident is, I would say, greatly increased over any other tanker route along our coast.”

      At present, YVR’s fuel requirement of 1.4 billion litres per year is provided by two facilities: Chevron Canada Limited’s refinery on Burrard Inlet’s southern shore in Burnaby, and British Petroleum’s Cherry Point refinery in Blaine, Washington. About 80 percent of this is delivered from Burnaby to the airport through a 41-kilometre pipeline owned and operated by Kinder Morgan.

      “What the aircraft companies want to do is that they want to undercut Kinder Morgan and…Cherry Point and buy directly from the Persian Gulf so they can get lower prices,” Steves said.

      The airline consortium didn’t make a spokesperson available for comment before the Straight’s deadline.

      According to information put online by the VAFFC, the facility requires a marine terminal to accommodate Panamax-size tankers with a total carrying load of up to 75,000 dead-weight tonnes. It also anticipates the use of smaller-sized Handymax-class vessels, as well as barges with a capacity of at least 5,000 dead-weight tonnes.

      It adds that the proposed fuel facility is at one of the widest points of the Fraser River, allowing Panamax-class tankers to turn around and return to the Strait of Georgia.




      Jan 19, 2012 at 9:59am

      This is a topic for the whole Lower Mainland. We all use YVR airport. What will Metro Vancouver say about this? Its Ecological Health Action Plan and Regional Growth Strategy talk about protecting the environment and about sustainable transportation. What say the elected officials of municipalities whose citizens also depend on YVR? Everyone should learn about this issue and the alternatives supported by Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond ( VAFFC has a public open house on Jan 28, and the BC government takes public input on the environmental assessment until Feb 1. See also

      Sid Tan

      Jan 19, 2012 at 11:17am

      Wow, didn't really know about this. Thanks. Was more concerned about poverty, human rights, pipelines, DTES issues and like. Yeah, the 1% making hay while alot of the 99% sleep or are too busy to notice...This in my backyard...

      Carol Day

      Jan 19, 2012 at 1:02pm

      VAPOR needs your help !
      We are opposed to the Jet Fuel Marine Terminal and 80 million liter Jet Fuel Tank farm proposed for the south arm of the Fraser river.

      PLEASE write the
      and leave a comment on the VAFFC Jet Fuel post before Feb 1st !!!

      When there is a Jet Fuel spill it will affect the Fraser River estuary and even Environment Canada wrote " The project would present a new and unacceptable risk to locally, nationally and internationally important fish and wildlife populations of the Fraser River Estuary including migratory birds...."

      Please ask the EAO to direct the VAFFC to consider other options like upgrading the current pipeline to the Burnaby refinery or building a new pipeline to the Cherry Point Refinery just across the USA border.

      Learn more on You Tube " VAPOR jet fuel " or see our web site

      Reality Check

      Jan 19, 2012 at 9:02pm should help out here. So called Canadian "Ethical Oil" is being replaced by cheap Conflict Crude. Can't wait for the boycott YVR campaign.


      Jan 20, 2012 at 7:18pm

      Actually, they are not as big as the Exxon Valdez. The EV was a little longer, 60% wider, with 70% more draft than Panamax. The EV had a capacity of 1,500,000 barrels, where Panamax have capacities closer to 500,000 barrels.

      The Fraser River Estuary does not extend in to the USA, and it is hard to see how volatile jet fuel could persist over hours, never mind “a hundred years”. Jet fuel is not crude oil.

      High tide arrives twice a day, not once, and passage by the tunnel would really not be that affected… the River is dredged for Panamax ships.

      I consider myself an Environmentalist, but Harold Steves’ lack of knowledge on a subject he is so passionate about is painful. He should go back to farming in sensitive wetlands and selling off his family's farmland to low-density residential development.

      Judy Williams

      Jan 23, 2012 at 11:48am

      I wonder if Richmondian is as restricted in his thinking as the person who said "dilution is the solution to pollution." Please get out to the Jan. 28th open house and get your comments in to the EAO by February 1. Our wetlands, river and estuary as well as lives (a river runs through us) depend upon it.

      save the fraser river

      Feb 27, 2012 at 8:53am

      setting myself on fire with GASOLINE sounds like a good way to make them stop