Open Letter to Premier Christy Clark December 13, 2016

Dear Premier Clark,

Re: Your acceptance of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion seven fold tanker increase, and the danger to the Second Narrows highway and railway bridges

Further to our earlier email of December 1, 2016, we are setting out in more detail why a risk assessment must take place before you decide on the Trans Mountain Expansion.

Please consider the following:

  1. The expansion will increase oil tanker traffic transiting the Burrard Inlet from five Aframax tankers per month to 34 per month. This increase means that there will be three or four days each month when two tankers will need to transit the Inlet in the same day, in order to make up the number of 34.  In order to comply with the Port of Vancouver Authority regulations for transit at the bridges and for public safety, these transits must take place during the two-hour period of slack water, and this must occur during daylight hours.  In winter, some days will have no slack water while there is still daylight, resulting in pressure being applied to get approval to transit during the hours of darkness.
  2. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is concerned about possible collisions with the Second Narrows bridges. Dirk Nyland, your Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, has sent me a letter stating, “Given the changes to vessel usage in Burrard Inlet over time, we are in the midst of undertaking a review of the vessel impact protection for both of these superstructures. The Canadian Highway Bridge Design Code S6-14 is being used in the work.”
  3. Despite current assurances from the Port of Vancouver Authority and the Pacific Pilotage, who have carried out many simulations to show how Aframax tankers can safely transit the bridges, they cannot guarantee that there will be no collisions with the bridges, as illustrated in our animation.

They can be commended for using simulations for training pilots and for determining the safest way of using tugs.  However, this is not enough.  What is needed is a proper risk assessment that includes mitigations to reduce the risk, including : the use of tugs, the proper training of pilots, and improved navigation aids.  These transits and the regulations of the Port Authority should be input into the CSA S6 Highways and Bridge code analysis.

  1. We also need an examination of worldwide statistics of similar accidents and the probability of these accidents occurring in the Second Narrows transit. This analysis should consider the consequences of collision to both the railway bridge and the highway bridge.  Once this is done, we would have a proper risk assessment.
  2. We would like to point out that Kinder Morgan states they have had no tanker incidents in the past sixty years, however Port of Vancouver Authority can only say for certain that Aframax tankers, which are the tankers Kinder Morgan uses for oil transport, have been transiting the Burrard Inlet since the mid 1990s. In addition, just because there have been no accidents of Kinder Morgan vessels in the Burrard Inlet, that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. You may recall that Westshore Terminals went without major incident for 42 years until Dec 7, 2012, when the vessel Cape Apricot, at 1:00 am, was supposed to berth at Berth 2.  Vessels have to make a turn into the berth that requires tug assistance to keep the vessel from turning too wide, and in turning into Berth 2, they are working against wind and currents.  In this case, the pilot attempted the manoeuvre without the required tug aid at the start of the approach, and ran into the Berth 1 approach conveyor, severing it and putting Berth 1 out of commission for two months.  Coal was spilled into the sea.
  3. When the risk assessment is completed, the assessment needs to be peer reviewed, and the results from that should be discussed with the public.
  4. In addition to the concern with bridge collision, the current risk of ten percent over 50 years, that a major bitumen spill of eight million, two hundred and fifty thousand litres will occur as projected by Kinder Morgan, is unacceptable.


We hope you will consider the above, and ensure that the BC government conducts a thorough risk assessment before supporting the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion project.


Brian Gunn

Spokesperson, Concerned Professional Engineers



Please follow and like us: