Start of Trans Mountain oil tanker traffic around Vancouver Island imminent

Trans Mountain has announced that it will commence operations on May 1, roughly one week out from Earth Day. That means tanker transportation of crude oil from its Burnaby terminal will begin to move through waters surrounding Vancouver Island, including the Westshore.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Victoria on Friday to announce $2.6 billion in funding for post-secondary student scholarships, fellowships and research grants, and was asked by The Westshore about the federal government’s oversight into the integrity of the tankers that will be transporting diluted bitumen through the Burrard Inlet, into the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

“We need to make sure that the safety of our coastal communities, of our biodiversity and ecologically sensitive sites like the Salish Sea and the southern Vancouver Island areas continues to be top of mind,” said Trudeau. “We will continue to step up in our monitoring and our ensuring that all regulations are complied with and that people are safe, even as we continue to respond to the needs of the world.”

Some of those assurances are written into the Oceans Protection Plan and the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act which outline laws and regulations applied to the shipping of oil in BC.

Steve Gray, a member of Metchosin Council’s Environment Committee, said he hopes the federal government will consider scheduling the tankers to avoid potential trouble in high winds in the Strait, particularly around Race Rocks. Based on weather trends, he said tankers “should not be traveling through the Strait roughly 40% of the year. The worst weather is actually in July, not the winter,” he said.

From its original price tag of $11 billion dollars, the cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline construction ballooned to $34 billion, mainly due to construction delays, and the start date is still unclear.

There has been some confusion on the actual start date of the project, with different messaging coming from different sources. On April 3, Trans Mountain announced that while it still needs to obtain outstanding approvals from the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), it would commence transporting crude oil on May 1. However, commodities expert Rory Johnston has said that the anticipated start date would be June 1, based on sources he’s spoken to. The definitive start date has not been established by the federal government.

Once TMX operations begin, oil tanker traffic will become as prevalent as commercial tanker traffic in the Salish Sea. It’s expected that roughly 34 tankers per month will make their way from Burnaby and through surrounding waters around Vancouver Island.

Burnaby South NDP MP Jagmeet Singh gave an Earth Day statement about the pipeline, criticizing the Liberal government’s insistence in moving forward with the project. “They bought the Trans Mountain pipeline and continue to fund and support it, despite the protests from experts, environmentalists and First Nations.”

Sidney Coles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Capital Daily