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Late last night Cape class coal bulk carrier, the Panamanian registered 948 ft. Cape Apricot crashed into the Westshore Coal Terminal, spilling coal into the Salish Sea. The Westshore Terminal is located less than half a mile north of the American Border, south of Vancouver and the sensitive Fraser River delta.


Ship crashes into dock at Westshore Terminals, spilling coal into water

By Gordon Hamilton and Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

METRO VANCOUVER -- A large bulk carrier docking at Westshore Terminals in Roberts Bank destroyed a coal conveyor system early Friday morning, knocking out the largest of the port’s two berths and spilling an undetermined amount of coal into Georgia Strait.

The mishap has put the berth out of service for an indefinite period of time, affected the port’s ability to export coal, disrupted customer deliveries and caused a yet-to-be-determined effect on the waters off the Fraser delta.

The loss of the berth, which handles ships with a cargo capacity up to 260,000 tonnes, is a significant blow to Westshore, which is North America’s largest coal exporting port. Westshore has one remaining berth, which can handle ships with a capacity of 180,000 tonnes.

The mishap happened at 1 a.m. when the bulk carrier Cape Apricot, with a capacity of 180,000 tonnes, slammed into a trestle, the only link between the berth and the terminal, destroying more than 100 metres of it. The ship went right through the causeway, taking a road, the coal-carrying conveyor belt, and electric and water lines with it.

CKNW Photo of damage with coal being carried away by the current
The ship had a pilot on board.
This was a relatively minor accident compared to having one of these large bulk carriers sink loaded with 180,000 tons of coal. But it does give us a timely example of the kinds of things that potentially go wrong by substantially increasing ship traffic through the Salish Sea. By adding another 450 of these 900+ ft. long bulk carriers a year threading their way past the numerous reefs and rocks that line their route thought the Salish Sea to the proposed Pacific Gateway Terminal not far south of the accident site.

I wrote about the potential for accidents involving the Cape class bulk coal carriers in a previous diary about the proposed Coal Mega-Port at Cherry Point..

Photo Diary: Scoping the Coal MegaPort's ugliness in the jewels of the San Juan Islands

The commenters were very persuasive. Many had impressive professional credentials in fields with techinal expertise and intimate knowledge of the local waters of the Salish Sea.  Ken Burtness is a retired Washington State ferry captain who took issue with the proponents' claim that the waters of the two straits are broad and deep. Captain Burtness pointed out when a ship's steering, propulsion or generators fail it doesn't matter how proficient the crew is, the ship is at the mercy of the area's powerful currents and if one of those things fails when the ship is in a tight spot a disaster can result. Captain Burtness  related how all of those things happened to him during his career as master of a state ferry. Another man spoke against it as a former naval officer and decades spent working in the merchant marine on ships all over the world. He talked about how these bulk carriers are some of the oldest and most decrepit ships plying the seas, and urged the panel to look at the abysmal safety record of the enormous Cape class bulk carries.

UPDATE: A St Kitts Nevis registered coal ship the VOLGO BALT 199 sank in the Black Sea on Thursday.

Please take the time to attend one of upcoming five Scoping Hearings if you can.

Vancouver, WA 12/12/12 – At Clark College, Graiser Student Center, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, 98663 from 4pm-7pm

Seattle 12/13/12 – 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6F

You can also submit as many comments as you want on aspects of the project that are a concern to you HERE

Originally posted to Lefty Coaster on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 07:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and DK GreenRoots.

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