Pipeline critics: Grounding in Prince Rupert shows tanker risks

The bulk carrier Amakusa Island in Vancouver in 2010. (Photo courtesy Gary McLeod/MarineTraffic.com)

The bulk carrier Amakusa Island in Vancouver in 2010. (Photo courtesy Gary McLeod/MarineTraffic.com)

A 750-foot bulk carrier ran aground outside Prince Rupert in British Columbia last Monday. It didn’t cause a fuel spill, but critics of a proposed pipeline in the region say it underscores the risks of increasing tanker traffic.

The Japanese-flagged Amakusa Island was moving from its berth at a coal terminal to Prince Rupert’s outer harbor last Monday. It scraped the ocean bottom, ripping its hull and flooding two ballast tanks, according to The Vancouver Sun.

There was no environmental damage reported, and the Canadian Coast Guard hasn’t determined the cause of the grounding yet.

But it’s still a red flag for opponents of British Columbia’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Environmental groups say the project would draw hundreds more tankers a year to the Canadian coast and shipping routes that cross the Aleutian Islands. They say that could increase the risk of oil spills and accidents like Monday’s.

The Vancouver Sun says a local pilot from British Columbia was helping steer the Amakusa Island when it ran aground. Enbridge, the company behind Northern Gateway, has said local pilots would maneuver tankers to and from the pipeline’s terminal — in Kitimat, just east of Prince Rupert — to help prevent accidents.

Critics say the Prince Rupert grounding shows human error can cause accidents no matter who’s in the wheelhouse.

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