ICS: Oil Tanker Ban on BC’s North Coast Is a Hindrance to International Maritime Trade

oil-tankersIllustration. Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

A proposed crude oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s northern coast would interfere with international maritime trade, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned.

The Canadian Senate is giving consideration to legislation — Bill C-48 — that would prohibit large tankers carrying crude and heavy oils from stopping, loading or unloading at ports in northern B.C.

The area covered by the proposed ban would extend from the Canada-Alaska border to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

“Such a dramatic step could lead to serious concerns being raised by Canada’s international trading partners,” Simon Bennett, ICS Deputy Secretary General, said.

“The proposed moratorium does not seem to have been developed through an evidence-based process and we fear it could establish a dangerous precedent that might be copied elsewhere, including by individual U.S. States, with the potential to impact greatly on the efficiency of world trade, as well as that of Canada,” he added.

This legislation, tabled in the Canadian parliament in May 2017, is currently being reviewed by a standing committee of the Senate of Canada.

As informed, the purpose of the bill is mitigating the risk of oil spills. If Bill C-48 passes, the new law would protect Haida Gwaii, Queen Charlotte Sound, Kitimat, Prince Rupert and many other areas from the risk of a major spill.

However, the legislation recognizes that coastal communities depend on some of these crude oils and therefore allows for the continued shipment of smaller quantities. Ports in southern British Columbia, where the marine safety system is more robust, will, as before, remain open to tanker traffic and smaller tankers will still be allowed to service B.C.’s northern communities.

Furthermore, energy products that dissipate more quickly through evaporation, such as liquefied natural gas, would be exempted from the ban under the proposed law.

ICS, which represents the world’s national shipowners’ associations and 80% of the world merchant fleet, also reflected on an “impressive” environmental record of the shipping industry, especially the tanker sector. On average, worldwide, there are currently fewer than two significant oil spills — over 700 tons — per year, compared to 25 such incidents per year thirty years ago, despite a doubling of the amount of oil transported by sea.

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