Tanker traffic continues to increase through Salish Sea

Submitted by Friends of the San Juans

Vessel traffic from ocean-going oil tankers, container ships, bulk cargo carriers and liquefied natural gas carriers could increase 34 percent according to new information which appears in the updated Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections infographic available at www.sanjuans.org/safeshipping.

Friends of the San Juans identified an additional 2,044 ocean-going vessels making 4,088 transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington state from 24 new or expanding proposals.

“All these projects have one thing in common; increased air and noise pollution that could affect the Southern resident orcas’ ability to communicate, socialize and successfully hunt for scarce prey. More disturbance means these starving animals will work harder to catch food, further depleting their reserves and releasing toxins in their bodies,” said Stephanie Buffum, executive director of Friends of the San Juans. “A major oil spill from propulsion fuel from any one of these vessels could cause the Southern residents’ extinction and impact our economy.”

Friends of the San Juans has been monitoring new and expanding terminal and refinery projects throughout the Salish Sea for five years; sharing these vessel traffic projections at transboundary forums and conferences; and informing the public and decision-makers about the need for more cumulative impact analyses to address the necessary protection of our water, wildlife and coastal communities.

The Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projection infographic was included in recent testimony by Friends of the San Juans in Victoria, British Columbia, to the commission of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regarding the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 and to the U.S. federal government regarding the Navy’s Draft Northwest Training and Testing Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement – Overseas Environmental Impact Statement.

In 2018, there were 12,120 large, commercial ocean-going vessel transits in the Salish Sea. These vessel transits don’t include local barge traffic, anchoring, cueing and bunkering (ship fueling) transits. Nor did it include the many ferry boat transits, and the pleasure, fishing and small commercial boats that share these transboundary waterways. Ninety-four percent of the projected commercial vessel traffic is destined for Canada.

Approval of the Canadian Federal Government’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will increase tanker traffic exporting tar sands diluted bitumen, increasing the likelihood of a 660,450 gallon or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass by 800 percent.

“A majority of these projects are in Canada,” Buffum said. “We can’t look at these project applications alone. Their cumulative impacts of underwater noise, air pollution and oil spill risk threaten our economy, environment and culture of the Salish Sea.”