Imagine a 2010 Gulf of Mexico type oil spill scene transposed over the pristine waters of Burrard Inlet and the shores of English Bay. Would Vancouver have an adequate response in the event of such a catastrophic environmental event?
A group of concerned citizens, notanks.org
, has organized a "Day for the Bay" this Sunday, October 17 from Noon-1500H, their goal, to raise awareness and ultimately ban oil tankers off the coast of BC to protect against oil spills.
The JSCA, as an organization, has always encouraged ocean environment awareness and preservation but we do not support a complete ban on oil tankers. Port operations are a vital part of Vancouver's economy and many people in our city depend on this industry. What we can say is that if there is going to be a five fold increase in oil tanker traffic going through these waters that are so precious to us we want to see that the appropriate preventative and disaster response procedures are in place. We know that not all members will agree with our organizational view and many will support an outright ban, which of course is their absolute right.
While the JSCA applauds notanks.org for raising ocean environmental awareness we do have some concerns with the "Day for the Bay" event. The organizers were unable to obtain the required Marine Event Permit due to lack of insurance. The float plan calls for a flotilla to go into the First Narrows under the Lion's Gate Bridge which would violate vessel traffic regulations. A poster advertising the event shows an oil tanker leaving the first narrows with a flotilla of small craft including kayaks directly in it's path. Only a suicidal fool would put their craft in such a position.
The Port Metro Vancouver Harbour Master's office is responsible for marine vessel traffic safety and has very stringent rules aimed at not having an accident. To paraphrase the words of one official -a disruption in the First Narrows is a threat to national commerce and will not be tolerated in any way. The Harbourmaster, Coast Guard, VPD Marine and RCMP will all be standing by to ensure things do not get out of hand.
Jericho Rescue has agreed to be present in case a small craft requires assistance but we draw a solid line on the right side of the law and will not attempt to occupy the narrows - we strongly encourage all participants to do the same.
Where can one find details on the Environmental Response Plan if an oil spill were to occur? According to Port Metro Vancouver the old plan is being restructured and will appear on their website in early 2011. The current Canada wide Environmental Response Plan can be found on the Canadian Coast Guard website at http://www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca/eng/CCG/Environmental_Response
. In view of the disorganization caused by an outdated response plan in the Gulf of Mexico it shouldn't be too much for Vancouver ocean lovers to ask for an updated more detailed plan directly pertaining to our local waters.