Retired sea captain: Don't be fooled by Harper's pipeline plans

| June 8, 2012
Captain Edward A. Wray.

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I write this article from the perspective of an old-timer who has a few tidbits of wisdom from my time on this planet. These thoughts are to do with the feds and Enbridge's so-called plan to run supertankers through the narrow passages out of Kitimat.

One word sums this up: poppycock!

I have been capable, and qualified, to sail any ship this world had to offer and in charge of some of the largest vessels used on this British Columbia coastline. My certificate, signed by the then Federal Minister of Transportation, was unrestricted; it literally states "Limitations: None."

I've sailed every part of this coast, seen just about every kind of storm, squall or system, and I've experienced every kind of tide, current or cycle imaginable. With this in mind I believe I am qualified to ask the simplest of questions: Why would anyone in their right mind ever consider the proposition of running supertankers through the seascape around Kitimat?

Every skipper would describe the conditions in B.C. as "unpredictable." This aptly pertains to anywhere along our coast but gains special meaning when applied to the labyrinth of inlets and islands along the route out of Kitimat. There are simply too many variables at play to guarantee safety, and there have been only too many wrecks to prove it. These include the carcass of the U.S. Warship M.S. Zalinski currently leaking its 700 tons of fuel oil into the estuary, and the ill-fated Queen of the North that sunk as recently as 2006.

When sailing these waters, even simple navigation presents difficulties. Given the size of these mammoth vessels, the distances for turning or stopping these boats would be measured in kilometers not feet. Assisted by tugboats, they would need to proceed at a snail's pace which leads to the next challenge.

There is not a career captain on the coast who hasn't seen a storm come out of nowhere. It would be simply impossible to avoid one and I'm here to tell you that when Mother Nature kicks up a fuss in those straights hell hath no fury.

Years ago, out of Kitimat, the wind kicked up so hard, we were literally going backwards at full throttle. All I can say is that I surely appreciated the distance between me and the rocky shore, a luxury these supertankers just won't have. 

Tides are another thing. The reason there is no standard depth along here is they shift so frequently. This wouldn't pose as much of a threat if not compounded by the severe currents, and the high winds that can blow several feet of water up and down the inlets. I'm sure that this is only scratching the surface of the variables and combinations thereof that would make a disaster here more probable than possible.

I could spend more time discussing the possibility mechanical failure, human error, the futility of double hulled tankers in this terrain, or containing a spill here, but really this is not the purpose of this article. 

My main objective is to shed some light on what appears to be a shell game the Harper government is playing with us. These people are either complete idiots or taking us for fools; and I don't believe they're idiots. 

If I were in the position of the current government and Enbridge - who are so obviously in bed together - and I wanted to push through something so obviously against the interests of Canada in general, and B.C. in particular, I would do the following:

Propose something so egregious and unsavory, such as a plan to run supertankers through some of the most volatile but pristinely beautiful areas that Canada has to offer. And then, when a decision is to be made, and opposition is at its highest, make a concession rerouting the pipeline to a "safer" harbor, most likely Prince Rupert, which was the plan all along.

In this plot the attention would be focused on a probable massive disaster on the coast and turned away from the probability of numerous smaller disasters along the pipeline path itself. By the time the dust settles the pipeline would be approved, construction would begin and there would be no recourse. 

This plan might also be designed to try to defeat Aboriginal interests. It is my understanding that in order to pass legal muster in regards to passing this through First Nations' territory, the government must both "consult" these communities and "accommodate" their interests. It appears this fall back may be the "accommodation" necessary to meet that legal test if the First Nations challenge the decision in court.

My message to British Columbians on all this is: don't be fooled!

Stand up now before it's too late, or we'll be choking on raw bitumen for generations to come, and all so a very few fat cats in Alberta and China can reap billions. I implore you, don't let these greedy corporate hacks steal my great grandchildren's beautiful legacy.

Thank you.


When this was written and published, Edward A. Wray was 87 years old. He was a retired west coast Sea Captain who spent nearly half a century on the water. Edward A. Wray died on February 22, 2014. You can read more about his life here.



As another retired BC mariner I would add an additional MAJOR concern with Super Tankers on our coast. It is not the passage from the Pilot station to Kitimat (or Prince Rupert or Vancouver) that worries me the most. It is the approaches from sea. Many of these ships, although double hulled may be 30+ years old. They have long since been sold off by first line shippers and are now owned by a numbered company in some obscure country of convenience. Their crewing and overall condition reflects this. For some it may be their first approach to our coast.

In all my years as a ships master on the BC coast I felt the most vulnerable when in close proximity to deepsea traffic without a Pilot aboard. In fair weather or foul. To use a term favoured by Captains throughout the world to describe this increase in hazardous cargo transits: "It is not prudent."

Thank you for coming forward and writing this and Thanks to Rabble for publishing it. It raises a concern as we have written about Captains saying the exact opposite.

We must ask you about Captain Fred Denning from the Canadian Marine Pilots Association and Captain Steven Brown who participated in a forum in Kitimat on sailing through these waters. The direct quote was - Captain Brown stated, "I can say this hand on heart, that if every waterway was as straight forward as the Douglas Channel, for professional Mariners, we would sleep more easily in our beds at night than we actually do."


The forum is described here;


And our typical challenge to them was issued here;


Why would Captains of this industry be so misleading? And why are they not publically outed?


We agree with your presumption, an alternative plan, but we feel it is to a different location, Thanks Rabble for your work! Merv

Thank you Sir...that was excellent...I too believe this has been a shill game from the beginning - especially since I have seen the three proposed routes. The other part of this shill game they also planned long ago, is to double the Kinder Morgan route.

The trick in a political shill game is called the consolation prize (which is what their real target is in the first place!). It works like this -- Ok you don't want us to put the pipeline here, then we will do it this way - just for YOU!

While we struggle to collectively stand up - they are trying to change the Indian Act and also allow the Province to deal directly with - equity sharing and accommodating with First Nations - through large sell out bribes to Band Councils already corrupted by the Fed's. Revoking their inherent rights to protection by the Federal Government and the principle Charter of the RCMP. If First Nations do not comply - they have started to cut funding in every quarter. All this and the changes in the Transport Act and the Environmental Act are part of corporate strategy. A shill game - run by bankers - controlled by Corporations - through control of the outcome by owning the governments - this is wake up time....and we are! Mother told me never gamble.

Douglas Channel is also a great funnel to concentrate any tsunami that strikes the mouth. The last one to hit here is called the Kitimat Tsunami, and that was in the late '1970's.

That tsunami reached  height of about 28 feet, and wiped out a wharf. Fortunately, no-one was killed.
The Tsunami Cafe in Kitimat is named after this event.

When the Big One hits, (Mag 9+) I suspect a lot of damage will be done to the town of Kitimat... and everything in it. Smelter, houses, oil tank farms, LNG plants, schools, oil tankers, etc.

A large wave can easily lift up a ship and turn it into a rather large tractor blade....

And we are perhaps overdue for th BIg One, the last one having hit in January, 1700.
Look up "The Cascadia Event", "Kitimat tsunami", and perhpas 'orphan tsunami'.

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