Fraser River Panamax-class tanker proposal gets Lower Mainland's attention

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      The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is preparing its report on a project that would see tankers the length of three football fields navigating the Fraser River.

      The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation, a consortium of commercial airlines, wants to build a marine terminal and aviation-fuel storage facility on the south arm of the river, as well as a 15-kilometre pipeline that would deliver the fuel from the terminal to YVR.

      The prospect of seeing massive Panamax-class tankers on the salmon-bearing river terrifies retired commercial fisher Terry Slack, who has sailed up and down the Fraser for more than 60 years.

      “What worries me a lot is that my friends who are still fishing out there would have to avoid these large vessels carrying oil, and there could be a serious accident with a fish boat on the Fraser,” Slack told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Slack, who leads community tours to raise awareness about the Fraser, is similarly worried about the effects of a potential spill. “If there was a spill, especially if it occurred in the spring, I think it would probably devastate a whole year of salmon coming back to the Fraser,” he said.

      According to information provided to the Straight by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, the environment office is finalizing its assessment report on the VAFFC application. The minister of environment and the minister of energy, mines, and natural gas will decide whether or not the airline consortium gets an environmental assessment certificate.

      The airport’s fuel requirement of 1.4 billion litres per year is currently supplied by 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 the fuel is brought from Burnaby to the airport through a 41-kilometre-long pipeline owned and operated by Kinder Morgan.

      The municipal councils of Richmond and Delta have raised concerns about the proposed project.

      Vancouver’s only Green councillor, Adriane Carr, indicated that she is contemplating bringing a motion to council about the planned jet-fuel facility.

      “It’s a very sensitive delta and estuary, and of course Vancouver has as much interest in the maintenance of the Fraser River and its prolific salmon runs [as other municipalities],” Carr told the Straight in a phone interview.




      Dec 25, 2012 at 8:48pm

      Why does this article come accompanied with a picture of a container ship going thru the Panama Canal?

      Martin Dunphy

      Dec 25, 2012 at 10:21pm


      Because that is the size of the ship that is being contemplated for the Fraser. Since it hasn't actually happened, there are no pictures of those ships on the Fraser available to illustrate the article. Panamax=Panama?


      Dec 26, 2012 at 11:00am

      No Thanks, I prefer Salmon to this proposal.

      Please, leave this poor, tortured river alone. We've messed with it enough in our ~140 years in Canada.

      Pender Guy

      Dec 26, 2012 at 11:25am

      Panamax class ships already enter South Fraser, although not tankers. Mind you they can not be fully loaded due to draft restriction caused by the tunnel. That will change if/when a new tunnel/bridge is built on Highway 99.

      Carol Day

      Dec 26, 2012 at 4:49pm

      The BC Environment Assessment Office needs to say NO and ask the VAFFC ( Air Canada , West Jet Air China etc. ) To look at smarter options such as a new pipeline to the Cherry point refinery in Washington , that option will keep tankers full of Jet fuel out of the Fraser river. The City of Vancouver, Richmond and Delta all say NO to a Marine terminal and 80 million litre jet Fuel Tank farm. Environment Canada says " This proposal is an unacceptable risk to the Fraser river estuary. " Now we need the BC EAO to Say NO !

      The airlines need a reliable source for jet Fuel not a disaster waiting to happen. The VAFFC has "GUARANTEED " there will be a spill but have not demonstrated an effective plan to clean up the mess. It is left to the taxpayers to pay the bill for a Jet fuel spill a fire or explosion. The Richmond and delta Fire departments do NOT have the equipment, training or manpower to deal with a major disaster.

      Air Canada West Jet and the other airlines created the VAFFC as a non profit group to buy Jet Fuel for the purpose of fuel hedging . They buy Jet fuel when it is cheaper and store it in massive tanks. As a non profit group they have no real assets so how do the cities get compensation for a costly environmental disaster ?

      Twenty years ago the VAFFC had a simiilair plan for the north arm of the Fraser river and Environment Canada said NO, where is the federal government now ? The feds have mandated the BCEAO to do a review for the federal government and have called this process harmonized. The Process has been unfair because the public have not have had an opportunity for responding to the new reports the VAFFC have commissioned. The 180 day guaranteed process has dragged out for almost 700 days !

      The BC Auditor general is correct when they criticize the BCEAO and say that they are not effective. The process is not open not transparent and certainly not fair.

      www.vaporbc for more information


      Dec 26, 2012 at 6:17pm

      This proposal is completely unacceptable!! There are far better ways to get/expand jet fuel to the airport.

      The VAPOR Society has been opposing this project for almost 2 years and now that a decision is expected soon we need your help more then ever please write Premier Christy Clack, BC Environment minster Dr. Terry Lake, Federal Environment minster Peter Kent and PM Stephen Harpar their e-mails can be found on our website at

      And like us on Facebook for the latest information at:

      Thank you

      Barbara Huisman

      Dec 26, 2012 at 7:31pm

      People in the lower mainland are slowly waking up to the fact we have a huge disaster-in-waiting in the Fraser Estuary. We have all been very concerned about Enbridge (at least 80% of us), but this VAFFC proposal has been overshadowed in the process. The explosion/spill dangers are high and yet they do not seem to be doing a fair public hearing and requests for a detailed safety analysis have largely been unanswered.

      Jim Ronback (retired System Safety Engineer)

      Dec 26, 2012 at 7:43pm

      Our federal and provincial Ministers of the Environment are asleep at the switch or are deliberately ignoring the extremely high hazardous threat of a flammable fuel vapor cloud explosion and fire, like the ones that had devastated the fuel tank farms in Buncefield, UK; Texas City, US and Jaipur, India.

      In the face of this possible conflagration, the imminent decision by the BC Environmental Assessment Office and Port of Metro Vancouver, to approve or not approve the VAFFC's jet fuel transportation proposal is critical for the safety of the nearby population.

      The proposed tank farm is expandable to 8 tanks containing 106 Million liters equal to 3.6 petajoules (PJ) of stored energy. That is equivalent to more than 850,000 tons of TNT. This does not include the additional hazardous energy (2.7 PJ) stored in a Panamax tanker unloading at the marine terminal. If there was an incident that causes a fuel vapour cloud to ignite, the fire and explosion would be horrific. The blast's pressure wave, thermal radiation and flying debris would be deadly.

      During the 60 year life of this project, serious accidents will happen. Thus I am adamantly opposed to locating a hazardous 80 million liter jet fuel tank farm with six 6 story tanks and marine terminal on the banks of the Fraser River within 400 meters of a condominium, entertainment and sports complex. Safer, more reliable and ecologically friendlier alternatives, like pipelines-only to existing refineries, minimize the worst case consequences.

      Absence of risk based land use planning and assessment for hazardous industrial sites allows this to happen and thus exposes the public to an intolerable societal risk. Sufficient measures must exist to protect the population from an accident that is considered to be the worst conceivable.

      The public, who have not been consulted on this aspect of the hazardous project, needs to know how big the hazard footprints and risk areas are, to estimate how many casualties could occur under worst case conditions. We have been denied the opportunity to review and comment on this major concern that was not addressed in VAFFC's application.

      The sleeping Environmental Ministeries need to be aroused from their somewhat deliberate ignorance.

      Jim Ronback, P. Eng. (retired System Safety Engineer)
      Director of VAPORBC,

      1530 Kirkwood Road,
      Delta, BC
      V4L 1G1

      604 948 1589

      Evil Eye

      Dec 27, 2012 at 7:43am

      Um..........are we forgetting something here?

      Don't we have the Roberts Bank Super Port, that is definitely not on the Fraser River? Are we not we spending $2 billion+ for new highways and rail infrastructure to service the superport? Wasn't the superport built so that Panama-max ships need not go up the Fraser?

      Margaret Woods

      Dec 27, 2012 at 12:02pm

      Its a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Everybody has their own little kingdom and nobody is coordinating the big picture.