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Spill response base planned for Vancouver harbour if Trans Mountain proceeds

Seabus in Vancouver harbour
Seabus in Vancouver harbour. Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.

Western Canada Marine Response Corp. says it's moving ahead with plans to build a new on-water spill response base in Vancouver harbour, even though the project will only proceed if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is approved by the federal cabinet.

The federal government is set to make a decision on the $6.8-billion Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline expansion in December, but Kinder Morgan Canada's proposal already faces several court challenges, including one filed by the City of Vancouver.

The corporation, which handles marine spill response on the West Coast, says the planned Vancouver base is part of a larger $200-million expansion plan that is contingent on the Trans Mountain proposal being approved.

Trans Mountain, whose parent company is Kinder Morgan Canada, is funding the majority of the expansion over 20 years, partly through a special fee charged to shippers.

The Vancouver base would be located near New Brighton Park on the city's east side and be one of five new response bases that would have 115 new employees and 26 new vessels at strategic locations along B.C.'s southern shipping lane.

Michael Lowry, a spokesman for the response corporation, says construction will begin in early 2017 and be fully operational by 2018 if Ottawa approves Trans Mountain.

"If there's an injunction against work, that's something that's out of our control, but we are ready to begin construction on this within early 2017," he says in an interview.

He says the proposed base also requires approval from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the corporation will submit an application within the month.

Lowry says all the enhancements will double capacity and cut mandated response times in half in B.C.'s southern waters. The improvements also call for 24/7 operations at three of the new bases, including the proposed Vancouver site.

The organization already has a fleet of 17 vessels moored at different docks throughout Burrard Inlet. The new base would bring all the ships and crews to one central harbour location, he says.

"This location is great for us because it actually allows us to have our crews on the water 24/7, and they'd be able to basically deploy from the time they were activated within 10 to 15 minutes," he says. "That's a drastic reduction in response times."

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