Keep an eye on real-time tanker traffic in Vancouver and B.C. waters

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      The Burrard Inlet is a busy channel for international shipping—a fact that has found itself the subject of increasing controversy in recent months.

      Today (April 22), for example, B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix used the occasion of Earth Day to tell reporters that he’s concerned about a dramatic increase in oil tanker traffic through Metro Vancouver's coastal waters.

      Those remarks were in reference to the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. If the project goes ahead, it will twin an existing pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity for Alberta heavy crude from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.

      It's estimated the expansion will result in more than 400 tankers per year moving oil through Vancouver waters.

      There are also plans underway to dramatically increase the amount of coal exported from the region.

      It’s all going to make for a lot more industrial traffic passing through Vancouver’s iconic location on the water.

      There are a couple of ways that people interested can keep an eye on all of that.

      You can head up any of the local mountains for a panorama of the Burrard Inlet. The view from halfway up Cypress offers a decent vantage point.

      Travis Lupick

      Another is, an excellent resource for anybody interesting in anything nautical.

      The website, an “open, community-based project,” according to its FAQ, uses an automatic identification system combined with Google Maps to collect and present real-time data related to shipping and water vessel movements.

      Take this screengrab captured on April 9, 2013, for example. (All of the images below can be clicked to enlarge.) One can quickly see that there were a number of large ships anchored or docked in the Burrard Inlet on that date, including more than 30 cargo vessels (green) and three oil tankers (red).

      You can pull up basic information for each every ship on the map.

      And click through to more detailed information.

      An interesting exercise is to head up the mountain with a smartphone or laptop with portable internet access. You can easily match what you’re looking at in the real world with ship-specific information available at

      For example, if you were out on the tip of Lighthouse Park around 3:30 p.m. today, you could have deduced that the Chembulk Adelaide was passing by. The Adelaide is an oil/chemical tanker built in 2011 and registered in Singapore. As it entered the Burrard Inlet, it was travelling at a speed of 13 knots, which is just a little bit slower than its average of 13.6.

      Moving on from Vancouver, if you click roughly six degrees latitude north, you’ll find Kitimat, the planned export point for Alberta heavy crude oil transported via the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

      Stay tuned.



      Pat Crowe

      Apr 23, 2013 at 9:20am

      With modern GPS and all other safeguards in place the chance of a tanker grounding is highly unlikely especially with our pilots on all incoming and outgoing shipping traffic. Apart from Canadian shipping traffic look to the American side of the Juan De Fuca straight for a real eye opener as to the amount of tanker traffic transiting. We would still be peanuts compared to that.
      The real concern is exhaust from the shipping traffic and particulate blowing over us. The air between Port Angeles and Victoria is consistantly nasty due to that fact. And all of that is blowing towards the Fraser Valley. Not Seattle/Tacoma.

      Juan Casador

      Apr 23, 2013 at 5:43pm

      He sure did not enter "inner" Burrard Inlet at 13 knots. He might have entered (but not crossed) English Bay at that speed. There are speed limits inside the First Narrows bridge and even before that for large craft.


      Apr 24, 2013 at 12:39pm

      "With modern GPS (etc)...the chance of a tanker grounding is highly unlikely". Hogwash! During the recent Cons oil-response speech, the Coast Guard's oil-response vessel ran aground on a sandbar on the way to the event. And yesterday a trawler hit a naval vessel while being towed by tugs. Thinking that technology will prevent inevitable oil spill disasters is naive.