The most important aspect of any discussion on a tanker moratorium on Canada's west coast is to remember that there is no tanker moratorium. What exists is a voluntary tanker exclusion zone which only applies to tankers transiting south from Alaska to ensure sufficient incident response time. It is gravely misleading to argue whether there is or isn't a tanker moratorium. Doing so curtails the real problem for us on the west coast, which is the coast is at risk today - even without any of the projects being planned.
Without even considering the Enbridge project, our coast is about to undergo a significant increase in commercial shipping activity. Currently, the port of Kitimat is due for expansion; the port of Prince Rupert has planned expansions at both Ridley and Fairview Terminals; and the Port of Stewart has been looking to expand marine traffic in and out of that port. Yet if the Queen of the North was to sink today where it sank four years ago - what will have changed? Nothing. This precisely is the real problem. Nothing has fundamentally changed here to ensure another ferry or other vessel doesn't sink in our waters again.
Instead of just saying 'no' to tanker traffic, let's instead seize the opportunity we have to change the risks that exist on our coast, an opportunity to introduce marine safeguards such as tug escorting and operational conditions. A comprehensive plan could establish emergency response capabilities equal to what is in place in Alaska and exceeding that required by Transport Canada and allow us in northwest B.C. the chance to benefit from responsible economic development.
No matter whether you're a commercial fisherman, a tourist operator, a barge business owner or even a commercial shipper, marine safety enhancements would not only ensure the likelihood of accidents will be drastically reduced but will also significantly improve our ability to protect our beautiful coast - making it safer for everyone.
Gerry Martin is president of the KT Industrial Development Society in Kitimat
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