Not anti-pipeline, nor anti-tanker, but questioning of Enbridge Northern Gateway

[Editor's Note: Captain Mal Walsh is a Master Mariner from Comox, BC. He has over 40 years of experience in the international oil exploration and shipping industry—both commanding vessels on the seas and working ashore in management. He served on deep-sea ships in the British Merchant Navy before working in the offshore oil industry in the North Sea. When he came to Canada, he worked for Dome Petroleum during their exploration in the Beaufort Sea then came ashore and became General Manager of Marine and Environmental Services with Canadian Marine Drilling (CANMAR).]

Following on to a letter I wrote that in the July edition of the Western Mariner and later in the Vancouver Observer, I feel that it may be useful to respond to comments received.


As I stated in my letter I am not against pipelines.

In fact, I have had some experience with the construction of offshore pipelines from oil field production facilities to shore refineries.

These lines are laid in deep water and are constructed such that they will withstand the effects of time, corrosion, earthquake risk, and often-high pressures. In addition and as a key point they are designed for the Life of the Field.

Returning to fix problems is not in the design plan.

The wells are often 300-plus miles from shore so pumping the crude has to be done in one shot without the help of booster pump stations along the line.

This takes pumping with pressure, so believe me that they are expensive to build and use very heavy schedule pipe of the highest quality—not cheap.

Monitoring of the line status is by ultrasonic “pig” inspection techniques.

Pipelines in 2012 can be constructed to meet all risks; it’s just a matter of cost and regardless of the recent sorry mishaps we hear about, they can be safe.

Sadly, those involved in presenting the pipeline case for the public to judge have done a poor job.

If you are against the export of oil that’s one thing. Being against pipelines is  separate issue, so please don’t confuse the two.

Not against tanker traffic, but routes

I would like to make it clear that I am not against tanker traffic—just the proposed location for a terminal at Kitimat so far deep within the inlets of the wild coast. Comparisons with Norway are just plain silly. 

Yes, very successful oil exporting is done from the Port of Vancouver and the issues of our offshore West Coasts can be protected with the addition of improved VTS services and rescue tug(s).

Note the Seattle Company Crowley has just launched the “Ocean Wave”, a rescue tug of 165 tonnes bollard pull, and the first of a series of such vessels. Why can't a Canadian towboat company? It’s a small price for the oil industry to pay.

I have also been asked if I favor busy gateway port of Prince Rupert instead of Kitimat.

It has not been proposed, but if it had, I am confident that I would not have written my first letter. However, that is not to suggest that the concerns of those folk in Prince Rupert are unfounded.

My comments on VTS and rescue/salvage tug(s) would still apply.

Mal Walsh

Master Mariner



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