Custom Search
Top Stories
Go to Site Index See "Top Stories" main page
The panel of Suest Speaker, Kevin Obereyer, Fred Denning, John Armstrong, Michael Harris, Aaron Dumler,  Stephan Brown and Michael McGuire
REPORTING · 9th March 2010
Walter McFarlane
There was a shipping and Marine Occupation Forum in Kitimat on March 2nd. Six speakers came out to present on shipping as a career and speak, briefly, on shipping oil. The forum was poorly attended by the public.

Dianne Hewlette welcomed everyone to the forum and introduced the panel. She stated this would be a chance to learn about occupations in the Pacific Pilotage Authority and hoped to see a panel of Kitimat people here in twenty years. In addition to the panel, she introduced Michael McGuire.

Captain Kevin Obermeyer took the mike first. He explained the Pacifice Pilotage Authority are a small, 60 employees, Federal Crown Corporation operating pursuant to the pilotage act. Their mandate is to establish, operate and maintain pilotage service in BC Coastal waters. The mission is to provide safe pilotage to protect the interests of the Citizens Canada.

They provide pilots with local knowledge and expert ship handling to vessels operating in waters of British Columbia. He showed that there is an exclusion zone where the moratorium for oil tankers on the BC Coast does not apply, to prove there are oil tankers on the BC Coasts.

Obermeyer talked about how they change the pilotage area or operations. They have a full risk analysis. The goal is to identify the stakeholders and their concerns. “In any risk, there are two items that have to be dealt with. The first is probability, how likely is the event to happen and the second is severity,“ said Obermeyer.

He showed a grid that showed the likelihood of the event and the severity. “If it’s highly probable, you will be in the extreme zone and that would be a no go situation unless you can do something to reduce that risk down to a low or a medium".

He used a picture of a barber distracted by a woman walking by his window while shaving a man with a straight edge razor to demonstrate what he was talking about. He suggested that a blind for the window would be the best way of solving the problem rather than preventing the barber from shaving.

He moved on to how the piloting works. The pilots fly from area to area where they help guide boats along the BC Coasts. The problem is, the number of successful candidates have been decreasing. Pilots are insurance for a country against marine disasters, the pilots have local knowledge so they enhance the bridge team.

He also showed there were 6 incidents in 2009 before concluding his presentation. “There are jobs at sea, it is needed. You also don’t need to be a rocket scientist to go to sea,” said Obermeyer.

Fred Denning, President of BC Coast Pilots stepped up next to speak about pilots. He explained how the company works and the career path the pilots take, starting from roles of deckhands on the different types of vessels. They become familiar with the BC Coasts.

Denning explained what a day will look like for a pilot. They are dispatched, gain information on the vessel. The pilot is responsible for the safety of the vessel. Vessels from Kitimat go to Triple Island outside Prince Rupert before heading out to ocean. He then talked about how the industry is changing and improving.

He said they're working with Enbridge and Kitimat LNG on their proposals. He explained in Copenhagen, they are examining the safest routes for Tanker Traffic in Kitimat. “The effects of expected weather conditions on ship movements, the required abilities of birthing and escort tugs, for ships of varying sizes and the needs for improved aids to navigation in the area were looked at. We continue to be engaged as this process moves forward,” said Denning.

He expressed that the pilots are dedicated to preservation of the coastline. “The pilot considers if it is not safe for a vessel to proceed as planned for any variety of reasons. He has the legal responsibility to take whatever action may be required to keep the ship in a safe situation and do the utmost to prevent any incident from occurring,” said Denning before he concluded his presentation.

Captain John Armstong, VP Marine Operations Seaspan International Ltd presented on tugboats and barges. He explained the operation of Seaspan. They work with log barges, covered barges, project towing and business development, and what regulations tugs have to follow.

He stated they are regulated by their customers. “Oil companies require you to go to a higher standard than your local Federal Legislation would require. An example would be mandatory drug and alcohol testing. Double hulled vessels required before federal regulation requires them in 2015. We build all our oil barges. We build them double hulled because the oil companies say, don’t come to our facilities unless it’s a double hulled,” said Armstong

He explained todays have remained the same over the last 30 years although they are more efficient and low emission. He said they were safer and more reliable. Newer tractor tugs have many advancements which make them superior. They have better stopping capabilities, stronger ropes and better equipment.

He said the mariners of today are highly trained even in the roles of deckhands. Masters, mates and engineers require years of time at sea and lots of training. These mariners are highly skilled; the skills are acquired during their careers and are highly valued.

Captain Michael Harris stepped up to speak about careers at sea. He introduced himself and thanked the Haisla Nation for letting him work in their territory and explained his history at sea. He explained they need deckhands and started going over the requirements.

Deckhands have to be physically strong, have a clear mind and be professional when it comes to safety, both your own safety and that of your crew. Deckhands have to take a full medical as well as a criminal record check before they can be hired. He stated Engineers and cooks are also entry level job positions tugs are looking for.

Aaron Dumler from SMIT Marine in Kitimat took the mike to talk about the tugs in Kitimat. He spoke about his own history and interest in boating. Once this one done, he explained what SMIT does. SMIT only does harbour towage in Kitimat. Dumler concluded he has always enjoyed working on the water.

Captain Stephen Brown from the Chamber of Shipping wrapped up the presentation by explaining the governance of shipping. He explained without the shipping industry, the economy would collapse. He explained the cost of shipping goods in the last couple of years has remained low.

Brown explained how he got into shipping and defined several different aspects of the Chamber of Shipping. He talked about double hulls which is an inner and outer skin and showed what they look like. He explained all tankers have to have them. He added more oil is being transported and the number of oil spills is going down.

He stated the amount of oil spilled has gone down from 170,000 tonnes in 1992 to 14 ,000 tonnes 2007 although the amount of oil being transported has increased. He suggested they are not perfect but they are getting close.

“Between 1970 and 79, the average number of oil spills, was 25 around the world in a year. between 2000 and 2007, it is actually 3.8 during the course of the year. So the frequency of oil spills has gone down but also the quantity of oil spills has shrunk dramatically. We think we are on the right path. We take very seriously our responsibility as an industry to manage the risk and I think the numbers… They’re not made up numbers… these all come from the International Maritime Organization… is something very positive that is actually happening,” said Brown.

He moved on to air pollution and pointed out that cargo ships were better at moving cargo than trucks or planes. He stated owners are trying hard and they wll never be good enough. He added emissions control was going to be enforced in North America where all ships along the coast of North America are going to have to start burning low sulfur fuel.

Brown also talked about the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He did not have time to go into the details. All vessels in Canada have to have Marine Liability Insurance.

He stated there were currently no clean up facilities in Kitimat, but stated when the projects start to come in, facilities will be created. He talked about Barrard Clean and explained every vessel has to have a plan for oil spill response before they can go onto the coast… for 600 bucks a year.

The next slide dealt with Civil Liability. Companies have to clean up the oil which comes from their ship. Canada also has an Oil Spill Fund as well. Brown explained Canada is a leading country to establish a fund, Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. This is for when they cannot prove who made a fund or the liability diminishes. “Canada is extremely well covered,” said Brown.

He talked about how young people could get involved in shipping. He explained crew members have to be trained to a specific standard and everyone has to be in compliance to the code. Tankers have an additional officer training standard. He explained the oil tankers take their training seriously. In addition, the tanker industry checks the history of oil tankers to make certain they meet their standards.

He talked about Termpol which is a part of the review process for any new project which transports oil. They look over the pipeline, the terminal and the routes. Brown explained the process is very thorough and voluntary, although companies who do not subject themselves to this review may not have their projects approved. According to Brown the projects coming to Kitimat have been through this process.

He spoke about careers, stating that Canadian Cadets are in demand. Brown spoke to careers local and abroad before wrapping up his presentation. He was the last presenter. Dianne Hewlette took the stage and thanked everyone for coming. Each of the presenters was given an aluminium sail boat.
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 9th March 2010
This was a very entertaining forum that made a career on the ocean look exciting and lucrative. But, given the caliber of the speakers I can't, for a minute, be convinced that the main purpose was to attract young people to the field.

It is my concensus that when there is a lot to be gained by getting a particular message out, industry doesn't leave the talking to minions. My bet would be that Enbridge is a huge instigator in this forum.

A large part of the presentation was about safe shipping on the ocean. I agree that safety is always paramount and that accidents are rare, but they do happen and when they do it can be catostrophic. I, for one, do not want the risk of pipelines and oil tankers in my back yard. Do you?