Busy Ports

Although more than half of BC residents support the new pipeline there is certainly some resistance to it and to the increased tanker traffic in BC waters. My opinion is that the hysteria over Tankers is rather overstated. 

Currently, about 3500 deep sea ships visit Vancouver annually. That includes freighters, container ships, car carriers, bulk carriers, Cruise ships and tankers. That is about 9 ships per day.  The Port of Vancouver estimate that will increase to 12 ships per day by 2026. Of that total are about two oil tankers per week or 100 plus per year. 

In addition ships also stop at Port Melon, Nanaimo, Crofton, Chemainus and Victoria.  At any given time there can be as many as 65 deep sea ships on the southern coast. Today, there are about 60, 2 of which are oil tankers

Total in and out of southern BC waters is about 7000 per year. Almost all theses ships pass through Haro Strait a narrow channel between the Gulf Islands,  Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands in Washington State. The narrowest point is between Turn Point on Stuart Island and South Pender Island just over a mile. 


In my lifetime, I don’t recall there ever has been a collision or a grounding of a deep sea ship in this area. 

The big tankers are now accompanied by large powerful tugs from the terminal in Burnaby to Race Rocks past Victoria. The tankers are required have two pilots on board, two officers on the bridge with at least two crew as well. For a great article on how the tugs assist the tankers go to…


In recent memory there have been only two serious incidents involving deep sea ships in our waters. In 1979 a tanker collided with the Second  Narrows Rail Bridge in dense fog. In 1970 a Russian freighter collided with a BC Ferry in Active Pass. Freighters no longer use that pass and tankers transiting First Narrows have tug escorts. 

While you might think 7000 ship movements is a lot for one port consider that the port of  Singapore has 260,000 ship arrivals and departures per year. Today, April 28, there are 1452 deep sea ships in Singapore Harbour.  Every day 700 or more ships arrive or depart.  Several years ago we enjoyed an afternoon cruise around this harbour. The number of ships is amazing to see. Whereas ships coming into Vancouver are required to use a pilot from the BC Pilotage Authority, a Pilot is not a requirement in Singapore. Of the fleet of ships at least a third are oil tankers. Singapore is the largest ship refuelling port in the world. Below is part of Singapore Harbour today, the red squares are oil tankers. The green are freighters  



 Do they have collisions and oil spills?  Occasionally, but considering the enormous volume of ship movements very few. There was a spill in 1972, 1975, 1987, 1996, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2017. Some of those were caused  ships  running aground  and some the result of collisions. 

Considering the numbers of tankers it is surprising there are not more spills. Singapore seems to have an excellent spill response protocol. 


Another busy shipping area is the English Channel where 182,000 ships transit every year with rarely an incident. Of that total about 50,000 are oil tankers. Rarely is there a serious incident in the channel despite rather extraordinary volume of traffic  

Here are some interesting statistics on oil spills world wide. 


So considering other much busier ports around the world the traffic in BC waters is rather small. With the safety measures in place, with the use of pilots, with compulsory double hulls for tankers, with the modern navigation aids including radar, GPS, AIS, Chart plotters etc., ship traffic in and out of Vancouver should remain as safe as it has been for decades. 

Just saying…

One thought on “Busy Ports

  1. Hi Terry. I emailed you a long reply to your posting/opinion.
    Hope you enjoy it.
    P.S. If you would rather I post it here I will but it would be taking up your valuable space.
    Jest sayin’…..


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