Kitimat voices at the Joint Review: Peter G. King

Northwest Coast Energy News will use selected testimony from the Joint Review hearings, where that testimony can easily turned into a web post. Testimony referring to documents, diagrams or photographs will usually not be posted if  such references are required. Depending on workload, testimony may be posted sometime after it originally occurred. Posting will be on the sole editorial judgment of the editor.


I’ve been a resident of Kitimat for 53 years and the issues, as I see them, are economic diversity and challenges. One of the problems we face is urbanization. We end up with whole populations centred in large areas. This may work fine when things are going well, but it doesn’t work fine when things break down. does it work?

In the Vancouver area, people live in Delta and work in North Vancouver or go to university in UBC and live in Abbotsford. This would involve a two-hour commute both ways, totalling four hours in travel.

Then there’s the cost of travel to and from work, counting vehicles, fuel, parking and all extras that go along with it. The commute can cost $40 a day, on average. Of course, this is — there is mass transit, but the problem with mass transit is it sets up in the most economical way for obvious reasons.

But by doing this, it adds an hour to the commute on either end, so now the commute is three hours each way, so there is a trade-off, but it’s equal in the end.

For both people to work with and the same amount of cash out of pocket, the person who drives to work ends up having to work two hours a day more to pay for the commute but by the time — the way home would work out to be the same.

Of course, you could live closer to work, but that involves the same financial trade-off; if you live near your work, your residence will cost more. If you work close to where you live, your job may not pay as well.

Social diversity. Let’s pick up where the home/work example left off. If you live in a small area, without trying, a person’s quality of life increases by adding three hours to their home or leisure time. Since everyone lives within 15-minute drive to work or 30-minute bus ride away, no parking.

Crime is a major social problem in large centralized areas. If there is a crime in Vancouver, there’s thousands of possible suspects over hundreds of square miles and it could take weeks and months to solve the crime. In a small area, you have three possible suspects; one was in the hospital, one was at work, leaving you with one suspect; crime takes eight hours to solve in small areas.

Violence, for instance, if you see a fight in the street in Vancouver area, you do not know either person, so you’re isolated from it. In small areas, there’s a good chance you know both parties; this gives you a greater need to get involved and help solve the issue.

Children. When you go to Vancouver, you seldom see children playing in the street. For one, traffic is so much higher, but making friendship bonds is a problem as well. In small areas, children on the street will go to the same school, play on the same hockey team, shop at the same grocery store, go to the same church. The odds of this happening in a large area is very remote.

Thirty minutes after leaving the Vancouver Airport Terminal, your sinuses plug up. The reason is the concentration of car, truck and industrial pollution in the air. Nature has the ability to clean itself if the concentration levels are not too high, but in large centres we always suffer from bad air quality and water quality from what we have seen earlier with many commuters, most of which is with engines idling.

If I went to a local river and put a teaspoon of oil in a rural river, it would not be noticed by anyone, not by the river, not by the wildlife, but in a large centre you could have the equivalent of one million teaspoons of oil put in river waterways just from the storm sewers.

The concentration of human, chemical waste in the septic sewer systems going into the waterways in Vancouver is evidenced from these problems.

This is why there’s the discussions of dead zones at the mouths of waterways of large populated areas in the world. A horse can carry 10 tonnes on its back as long as it’s done in small amounts over long periods of time. If you put a whole 10 tonnes on a horse’s back at one time, you would kill it, and you don’t have to be a scientist to understand why.

If you’re sitting down and drink four litres of bleach, you would die, but if you diluted it one-part-per-million in water and then drank it over a lifetime, you could drink four litres of bleach and there would be no effects on your body at all because you’d probably have — you’ve not overwhelmed your body. It may have benefits by preventing harmful bacteria’s from increasing in the water.

Chances of a spill. The busiest waterway in the world is the Suez Canal.
There were 7,987 ships of all descriptions passing through it in 2010; that is 22 ships a day. The channel is 24 metres deep and 205 metres wide in 2010. The channel is a single lane and passes at — I hope I pronounce it — Ballah bypass, and in the greater Bitter Lake contains no locks and seawater flows privy through the channel.

Some supertankers are too large to traverse the channel. Others can offload part of their cargo into channel boats, reducing their draft, then transit to reload at the other end of the channel.
The Douglas Channel is 1,400 metres wide at its narrowest part. That is seven times wider than the Suez Canal. The Douglas Channel is also 200 metres deep, that is eight times deeper than the Suez Canal.

Piracy off the Coast of Somalia has been a threat in the Suez Canal since the 21st century. Piracy is not a problem in the Douglas Channel.

War zones. The Suez Canal was a target in World War I, World War II, and a few regional wars, and probably is a target in the near future. Being in a war zone is not a problem for the Douglas Channel.

Global diversity. My family and I are very blessed. We are healthy, wealthy and happy. Do I, as a person, have the right to deny other people in the world the same dreams and blessing? If this permit is denied, people in other areas of the world will have to pay more for energy for different reasons. We see the tsunami, earthquakes putting pressure on Japan and its nuclear power program.

If it is denied, I will be able to pay less for our energy. Globally, is this fair?

If I have all the food and I refuse to sell it to 100 starving people, should I be surprised when they take it from me for force? Should I have the ability to stop other people in the world from getting energy? No. But I have the ability to control how the energy is used in an economic, social, environmentally responsible way.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage the approval of the export licence at Kitimat for economic, social, environmental diversification locally and worldwide.


Kitimat voices at Joint Review: Murray Minchin Douglas Channel Watch

Northwest Coast Energy News will use selected testimony from the Joint Review hearings, where that testimony can easily turned into a web post. Testimony referring to documents, diagrams or photographs will usually not be posted if  such references are required. Depending on workload, testimony may be posted sometime after it originally occurred. Posting will be on the sole editorial judgment of the editor.

By Murray Minchin

I’ve been here since I was about four years old. I’m 52-ish now so I’ve been here for 48 years. I’ve left for school, went to college. I would go travelling and then — but I always came back. Like the power of this place always drew me back.

I’ve hiked almost every mountain in the region and I’ve hiked the rivers and particularly the little tiny side creeks that run down the mountain sides here. And as you drive in there’s a little tiny creek that runs into the marina at Minette Bay.

So if you’re ever back, there’s a hint to you, there’s about 12 waterfalls on that little tiny inconsequential creek that nobody ever even thinks about. I suggest you take a walk up there because it’s incredibly beautiful. This area is loaded with places like that, that are singularly beautiful on a really small scale when you step back from the whole and you go into these little tiny spots. They’re just amazing.

I’ve sea kayaked quite a bit. My wife and I spent six months sea kayaking down the whole coast of British Columbia. We did two months in the winter, two months in the spring and fall and two months in the summer. So we did six months over the whole year.

It takes about two weeks when you’re out there for just the mess — the extra stuff in your head from our society and our way of life to just kind of drop away, and after about three weeks then you begin to open your eyes and you begin to feel comfortable in a place. Like you become essentially really comfortable in the environment.

When we got to Port Hardy we booked a motel room and walked in the motel room and we sat down on the floor and we started going through our gear and started talking.

It took about 15 minutes before we realized that there were chairs in the room and we could sit on them. Like we were just so in tune with being out in the bush and — like that really changes your perception of the world. You know, like you become a little more aware.

Now, like for me, when I walk into the forest here it’s like an embrace.
There’s — it’s a palpable feeling to me that I feel completely embraced and at home in this environment.

I dropped over in the Mount Madden or into the Skeena watershed into a cirque that was surrounded by waterfalls dropping into it. So I couldn’t hear anything but the waterfalls, and as I came around the lake I heard the sound of a grizzly bear just screaming his head off and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from because the sound was echoing off the rock walls.

You know, I had to hunker down under trees and then just stop and think,
okay, like take it easy, don’t do anything too fast, take your time, make the right
choice. Experiences like that sort of show you that you — our place in the environment isn’t as strong as we think we — as it is. Like the environment has a lot more drastic effect on us than we realize.

Oh, and it was a couple of decades later I was listening to the CBC radio and I heard that sound again, and evidently it was older mature cubs fighting over a kill, cause I recognized that sound right away. But when I was out there I didn’t know, I thought it was directed towards me, possibly.

My daughter was two or three years old when I began taking her into the forest. Just past here there’s the marina, and then if you take a trail past the marina, there’s a totem pole in the forest, and you take a walk past the totem pole, you follow this trail that goes along the shoreline. So she was on my hip and we were walking through the forest.

I walked off to the side and I picked a red huckleberry off the bush and then gave it to her, and she popped it in her mouth and then, like her eyes lit up and she started jumping, you know, because she started pointing and now I had to walk through the forest to every red huckleberry bush so that she could get a taste of the red huckleberries. Now that’s part of her life and that will be part of her oral history.

On part of that trip we had a couple experiences, — on our kayak trip we had some experiences- just trying to figure a way to frame this — like yesterday at Haisla we were saying that in particular with the whales, like they’re here but in the past there was a great number of them, you know.

On our kayak trip after leaving Bishop Bay we came out on to three sleeping humpback whales, which was an amazing experience for us. But as I understand now, in the past, there would have been a lot more. And I’m really — fills me with hope to hear that they’re coming back. And it’s some disconcerting to think that that could be jeopardized in any way.

Kanoona Falls. It’s just above Butedale. Like here water is everything. we got stuck there for four days in big storms near hurricane force storms and it was raining really hard. This river was in flood; it was up into the trees on either bank and it was running completely pure, like there was no sediment in it. There It wasn’t muddy. It was just a pure river running
wild. And this is what the Kitimat River must have looked like in the past, you know, running pure in flood and no sediment.

There’s so much rain here that in mid-channel — like a channel could be two or three miles wide and there’s so much rain coming off the mountains, through the rivers and streams into the ocean that the seagulls take freshwater baths at mid-channel. It makes me wonder, scientists being who they are, engineering being who they are, the Proponent trusting their advice, has made estimations on spill response and stuff with materials and saltwater.

In the winter here you’d have to go down a foot, probably, before you find saltwater and in fact we had the sea kayak 140 kilometres south from Kitimat before salted to encrust on our decks. That’s how much freshwater is out there.

So any of the Proponent’s estimations on spill response times in saltwater, which is denser of course, should be looked at or refigured because saltwater being denser would hold the product underneath the level of the freshwater on top.

Here it rains like crazy, just suggested by the moss that you can barely see in the contrasting photograph but the forest here filters the rain so that it enters
into the rivers and the rivers run clean and the salmon and the eulachon spawn in the clean river which brings the bears; the bears carry the fish into the forest, don’t eat all of the fish and then it feeds the forest when then filters the rains for the next — for the next salmon coming up.

It snows like crazy here, like I said, you guys are really lucky that you dodged one by coming here when you did. Like four-foot snowfalls are an amazing thing to you. You know, it’s not a snowfall it’s a force of nature.

If you catch a snowflake on your tongue, one of those snowflakes on your tongue you wait for it to melt, it doesn’t and you have to chew it; like they’re twice the size of a toonie, you know, and a quarter inch thick. It’s hard to imagine but it’s a force of nature when it’s snowing like that which brings concerns about access issues, obviously.

[There are] access issues, just daily access issues anywhere, particularly on to logging roads or access roads into the wilderness, there are going to be of a great concern and even more so in emergencies when equipment and materials have to be moved anywhere.

Another problem we have here in thinking about liquid petroleum product moving through this territory is the length of out winters. The average night time low is below freezing for five months of the year and for another one of those months it’s just one degree above freezing; so things can lock up and be under ice for months at a time.

If there is any slow leak — for lack of a better term — which we haven’t been able to iron out through the information request process, you know, a spill could go for weeks without being recognized, even if the weather is good enough to get a helicopter up to fly over the area. Things could be under the ice and invisible until it gets to Kitimat and somebody notices that there is a spill happening.

This is a sapling that is growing in an estuary and it tried, I mean it tried everything it had, it had branches ripped off, the prevailing winds and it struggled but eventually it just got pushed over and died because it was in the wrong place, which I think much like this proposal and this attempt to get tar sands, bitumen from Alberta to Asia and California is — it’s just in the wrong place.

So this, to me, this is in the wrong place and this is just the first such proposal that’s reached this level of inquiry or to reach the Joint Review Panel stage, it doesn’t necessarily make it the right one and that’s really important, especially considering how much — how many forces they’re being applied to use. Well, to buy different entities to approve this project.

It’s really important to remain cognisant of the fact that this is just the first
one; it doesn’t make it the right one.

Getting back to the environmental aspect of this; this is a nurse log. You can’t see it because of the contrast of the projector. But it’s a nurse log with little tiny seedlings of more hemlock trying to grow through it. The fungus is breaking down the log. And this natural system, if it’s allowed to play out, will recover.

If we give this place a chance to recover, it will; the cumulative effects of all the industry that’s been in here and the damage it’s done over time.

It’s shocking to think in 60 years you can kill a river. And that’s what’s happened here. We’ve almost done it. Like the salmon are hanging on because of the hatchery. The eulachon are almost gone.

If we give it a chance, it can recover. The humpback whales are coming back this far into the channel. Like we saw one in front of the — I don’t know if you’ve eaten at that — the restaurant here, but last year we were here and there was one feeding right outside on the beach, just off — about 100 feet off the beach.

So if we give it a chance, it will recover. And to threaten that in any way is — morally, for me, it’s just wrong. To risk so much for so little short term gain is not part of my mindset. I can’t comprehend that.

Like this spruce on Haida Gwaii; it’s on the Hecate Strait side of Haida Gwaii. You know, it’s in from the beach a little bit but, you know, with the 120 kilometre an hour, 100-whatever an hour kilometre an hour with northerly outflow winds we have around here, even a place like this would get spray from bitumen that’s coming in at high tide.

This is a tree that’s just barely hanging on, on Cape George. It’s on the southern end of Porcher Island with Hecate Strait in the background. And it’s just an example of what things have to do here when — to try and survive when the environment is so severe.

We paddled up into here on our sea kayaking trip, we came in at high tide and we were looking up at the rocks and then back into the distance and there was still nothing growing. It was just incredible to think.

So after we set up camp, I came around here and then took this photograph because where the water is, is high tide and beach logs are normally pushed up down the line along the shoreline, you know, nice and neatly tucked against the forest by the high tides.

these are just scattered all over the rocks, and that’s because the waves there are so big in the wintertime when the southeast storms come in that, I mean, like there’s nothing living for 10 feet up and, I don’t know, 70, 80 feet back because of the continual, every year storms coming in and pushing these logs and rolling them around.

Huckleberries, beach grasses, hemlock trees, anything will — if there’s any available space for something to grow, it’s going to grow. So this just speaks to the fact that the storms here are so continual and so severe that it’s a recipe for disaster.

You get waves crashing in on — so high onto a ship that the spray is getting down into the air ducts and down into the mechanics of the ship and then you’re adrift.

It’s a different — like after you — from travelling east, once you come into the Skeena Valley and you cross over that coast Range Mountains, everything is different. All your precepts from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, don’t matter here. There are severe environmental risks here beyond anything else in Canada.

I mean, the mountains are so young. The seismicity of the area is the area is questionable because there hasn’t been that much accumulated evidence over time. So it’s just something to be aware of.

It’s a place called Cape George on Porcher Island, which is just above Kitkatla.

There is Cape George, and this is just a storm that happened to miss us, but we were stormbound there for about four days.

I ask of you that you really consider that responsibility. You know, obviously you do, but it’s important for us to know that you, that you take that responsibility really seriously because like the — in t he Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office Reference Guide, as a guide to determining whether a project is likely to cause a significant environmental effect or not, it’s quoted as saying:

The Act is clear that the project may be allowed to proceed if any likely significant adverse environmental effects can be justified in the circumstances.

So what possible circumstances are there to risk such a place and to risk so many First Nations cultures?

So what I was saying was if you give nature a chance to heal, it will heal itself, and that’s what’s happening here and that’s what the Haisla elders were telling us yesterday, that this place wants to heal itself and it can if we give it a chance.

You know, to add more risk to the cumulative damage that’s already been done here, I think, would be essentially a crime. It should be given a chance to heal.

Another thing that Mr. Ellis Ross said yesterday was, you know, much like he’s making his own history, his oral history today and in his life, like you are as Panel Members making your own history as well and your ancestors are going to speak of what decision you made and the consequences of that decision.


TransCanada says it will reapply to build Keystone XL pipeline

TransCanada has issued a statement saying that it will apply to the United States government to build the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta bitumen sands to Texas.

Related: Obama adminstration rejects Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada can reapply

The statement reads, in part:

This outcome is one of the scenarios we anticipated. While we are disappointed, TransCanada remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL. Plans are already underway on a number of fronts to largely maintain the construction schedule of the project,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer. “We will re-apply for a Presidential Permit and expect a new application would be processed in an expedited manner to allow for an in-service date of late 2014.”

TransCanada expects that consideration of a renewed application will make use of the exhaustive record compiled over the past three plus years.

“Until this pipeline is constructed, the U.S. will continue to import millions of barrels of conflict oil from the Middle East and Venezuela and other foreign countries who do not share democratic values Canadians and Americans are privileged to have,” added Girling. “Thousands of jobs continue to hang in the balance if this project does not go forward. This project is too important to the U.S. economy, the Canadian economy and the national interest of the United States for it not to proceed.”

TransCanada will continue to work collaboratively with Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality on determining the safest route for Keystone XL that avoids the Sandhills. This process is expected to be complete in September or October of this year.

TransCanada has committed to a project labour agreement with the Laborers International Union of North America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Pipeline Contractors Association. Any delay in approval of construction prevents this work from going to thousands of hard-working trades people.

TransCanada’s investment of billions of private dollars would create thousands more jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector. The company has contracts with over 50 suppliers across the U.S.. Manufacturing locations for Keystone XL equipment include: Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas, California and Pennsylvania. The benefits these companies and the people of their states continue to be delayed and the negative impacts will be felt.

Girling adds TransCanada continues to believe in Keystone XL due to the overwhelming support the project has received from American and Canadian producers and U.S. refiners who signed 17 to 18 year contracts to ship over 600,000 barrels of oil per day to meet the needs of American consumers.

Costa Concordia followed course similar to Queen of the North

Costa Concordia course track
The track of the Costa Concordia before it ran aground, based on data from Lloyd's List and posted on the BBC News website.

Tracking data obtained by the definitive British shipping news service, Lloyd’s List (subscription required) and posted on both the Lloyd’s and the BBC News websites show that the cruise ship Costa Concordia was far off its assigned and programmed course before it ran aground near the island of Giglio.

The BBC reports:

Costa Cruises boss Pier Luigi Foschi accused Capt Francesco Schettino of sailing too close to a nearby island in order to show the ship to locals.

The captain blames the disaster on rocks which were not on his chart.


The data shows that the Costa Concordia, with 4200 passengers and crew on board veered close to the island of Giglio before hitting rocks just 150 metres from shore.  The closest any cruise ship has ever been authorized to come close to the island is 500 metres.

The course of the Costa Concordia, heading straight for an island, looks similar to the course taken by the Queen of the North when it hit Gill Island. The difference, of course, is that while the Queen of the North failed to make a course correction at Wright Sound, the Costa Concordia was apparently deliberately taken off course.

Bloomberg News reported:

The captain of a Carnival Corp. cruise liner ordered the ship off its programmed route, an “error” that caused it to hit rocks off Italy’s coast in an accident that killed at least six people, the chairman of the cruise ship’s operator said.

The Costa Concordia’s route was set electronically before it left Civitavecchia near Rome…and the ship shouldn’t have been so close to the Giglio island where it struck rocks, ripping a hole through its hull, Costa Crociere Chairman Pier Luigi Foschi said at a press conference in Genoa…

“We can’t deny that there was a human error,” he said. “The route had been properly programmed in Civitavecchia. The fact that the ship strayed from that course can only be due to a maneuver that was not approved, not authorized nor communicated to Costa Crociere by the captain of the ship.”

According to Reuters and other news reports, the danger is a devastating oil spill from the capsized ship. Italy risks environmental disaster if ship fuel leaks.

As the Costa Concordia shifted dangerously on Monday, Italy’s environment minister raised the prospect of an environmental disaster if the 2,300 tonnes of fuel on the half-submerged cruise ship leaks.

The ship’s fuel tanks were full, having just left the port of Civitavecchia, north of Rome, for a week-long Mediterranean cruise, when it ran aground on Friday…

The area where the ship capsized, off the island of Giglio, is a natural maritime park noted for its pristine waters, varied marine life and coral. It is known as an excellent diving site.

“The environmental risk for the island of Giglio is very, very high,” Environment Minister Corrado Clini told reporters. “The aim is to prevent the fuel leaking out of the ship. We are working to avoid this. It is urgent and time is running out.”

Related Links: Costa Concordia

AFP Ocean giants’ ban needed on Italy coasts: environmentalists
Toronto Sun Human blunders seen at heart of Italy ship disaster
AP via Globe and Mail Rescue operations resume in Italian cruise ship disaster

Related Links: RMS Titanic There are now so many comparisons to the sinking of the Titanic, almost a century ago, with the sinking of the Costa Concordia, that Google News has now created tracking link for those stories.

Editorial: BC and Canada must ask why the Costa Concordia sank

How could one of the most modern cruise ships in the world, the Italian liner Costa Concordia, presumably with GPS, satellite navigation, modern charts both on paper and computers, triple redundant aircraft type “bridge navigation systems,” depth sounders and hopefully look outs, hit rocks near the island of Giglio off Italy in calm seas on a calm night in the Mediterranean?

Update: Ship’s owners blame human error
Northwest Coast Energy News Cruise line issues statement emphasizing safety precautions, but blaming captain

Media reports are saying the sinking of the Costa Concordia was caused by “human error.”AP via The Globe and Mail Cruise captain’s conduct blasted as divers find more bodies

Maritime authorities, passengers and mounting evidence pointed Sunday toward the captain of a cruise liner that ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan coast, amid accusations that he abandoned ship before everyone was safely evacuated and was showing off when he steered the vessel far too close to shore.

BBC Cruise captain ‘committed errors’, say ship’s owners

The company operating a cruise ship that capsized after hitting rocks off western Italy on Friday says the captain may have “committed errors”.

He appears to have sailed too close to land and not to have followed the company’s emergency procedures, Costa Crociere said in a statement.

Capt Francesco Schettino is suspected of manslaughter, but denies wrongdoing.

Daily Telegraph Cruise disaster: ship’s owners blame human error

Independent on Sunday Jan 15, 2012
Front page of the UK's Indpendent on Sunday Jan. 15, 2012

(Media reports are different. Some say rock, since there is clearly a huge rock lodged in the ship’s upturned hull seen in news photos and media video, or a reef or a sandbar)

It’s a question being asked around the world at the moment, as the rescue operation continues at this writing. It’s a question being asked up and down the coast of British Columbia, not only because similar cruise ships ply the Inside Passage but because of the debate over the possibility of bitumen-carrying supertankers on the coast.

There’s another question you’re already hearing on when the television networks interview experienced mariners and naval architects. The Mediterranean off the west coast of Italy isn’t exactly uncharted waters, that region has been sailed for “thousands of years.”

The headline in Sunday’s UK Independent, “We hit a rock, it shouldn’t have been there,” brings to mind Odysseus. When Odysseus left the bed of Circe, the seer, one of the things she warned him to beware of were the “wandering rocks.” Most scholars believe that the wandering rocks were far to the south of the accident scene. The British sailor Ernle Bradford, who sailed what he thought to be the route of Odysseus in the early 1960s, and published his story in Ulysses Found, believed the Wandering Rocks were in the Straits of Messina, and might have referred to eruptions from the volcano Stromboli.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by the Italian police, who are holding the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, for questioning. The sinking will also be investigated by Italian and presumably other maritime authorities (since there were many nationalities, including Canadians, on board).

It is highly unlikely that there were “wandering rocks” in the path of the Costa Concordia. That’s not the point, the point is that Odyssey reflects the fact the mariners from Mycenean Greece and even earlier the Minoans and Phoenicians were sailing the waters where the Costa Concordia grounded by at least 1250 BCE, the usually accepted date of the Trojan War. Local mariners and fishers probably sailed that area for a couple of thousand years before the first traders ventured into the Mediterranean. If we take 1250 BCE as a starting date for trading ships in that region, that is 3,262 years ago.

The island of Sardinia, not far from the sinking site was, according to scholars, (including the distinguished Robin Lane Fox in Travelling Heroes Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer), the cross roads of the Mediterranean from about 1100 BCE to about 700 BCE. That’s because with the limited capacity of the shore hugging galleys and freighters of the era, Sardinia was a perfect meeting and trading point for the Celts to the north, the Iberians to the West, the Etruscans and others in Italy, the Carthaginians and west African people to the south and the great traders of that age, the Greeks and the Phoenicians from the east.

Odysseus as portrayed on a Roman mosaic.

Simple conclusion, if we take the date from 1100 BCE, the sea around Giglio has been charted for 3,112 years. Those scholars of the sea believe that the warnings Circe gave Odysseus were adapted by Homer from real sailing instructions probably passed down as oral poems in age, between the collapse of Mycenean culture and the rise of classical Greece, when only a tiny handful of Phoenicians could read or write.

One has to wonder if the bridge crew of the Costa Concordia had just had a Roman chart, whether or not the cruise ship could have avoided the rocks/sandbar/reef.

So what went wrong and what does that mean for the controversial plan to have hundreds of both bitumen and LNG laden tankers going up and down the British Columbia coast?

Britain’s Daily Telegraph is already asking what went wrong, in Cruise disaster: Perfect storm of events caused Costa Concordia crash. The Telegraph is pointing out something critical to the plans by Enbridge for a highly computerized navigation system for Douglas Channel, the Inside Passage and the British Columbia coast: that many of today’s bridge officers don’t have the skills that Capt. George Vancouver would have demanded even from the youngest teenaged  midshipman when he first charted the  west coast for the Royal Navy.

The captain was reported to have said he hit a rock that was not marked on his charts. But that failed to explain adequately the scale of the disaster, which experts said should be unthinkable….

The Concordia, whose officers were all Italian, will also have operated Bridge Team Management, a system adopted from the aviation industry whereby each operation is double and triple-checked by several members of the crew….

Modern ships are required to carry voyage data recorders which store detailed information about the vessel’s speed, position, heading, radar and communications…

The first thing investigators will have to determine is whether the vessel should even have been where it was.

A source close to the investigation told a leading Italian newspaper that the boat was on the wrong course — possibly due to human error — and was sailing too close to Giglio.

The ship should have passed to the west of the island, rather than the east, according to this theory.

Yesterday fishermen on Giglio and in Porto Santo Stefano said it was very unusual for such a large ship to attempt a passage to the east of the island….

Douglas Ward, a cruise ship expert and author of Berlitz Ocean Cruising and Cruise Ships, said: “Crew don’t have as much training as in the past.

“Ships today are built with completely enclosed navigation bridges and the navigators don’t even have to learn how to use a sextant, whereas marine officers in the past always had to.

“The advance in hi-tech navigation systems is so good that we have come to rely on them. But even these can fail — look at car satnavs.”

So if the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is approved, and even if Enbridge implements all the navigation improvements it says it will, it all comes down to the competence of a bridge crew. Perhaps a GPS could tell them to turn to port instead of starboard (as GPS units in cars sometimes do) and there could be tanker hitting Gill Island, just where the Queen of the North sank, even if it is tied to an escort tug.

What makes the sinking of the Costa Concordia  even more frightening is the negligence of Stephen Harper  and his cabinet cronies who are gutting Canadian Coast Guard and DFO resources on both the West and East Coasts.  It will be years before those super tankers might start coming up Douglas Channel.  There was lots of rescue capability on the coast of Italy from the Italian coast guard and local boats. What about the giant cruise ships, a key aspect of the British Columbia economy?  What if one of those ships got in trouble? The captain of the Costa Concordia was able to beach the ship right by the sea wall at the port of Giglio.  On the rocky coast of BC,   that giant cruise ship could go to the bottom in minutes just as the Queen of the North did, with little or no immediate hope of rescue.


Bradford's voyage
A detail of a map from Ernle Bradford's Ulysses Found, published in 1964, retracing the voyage of Odysseus. Homer's epic is probably a record of a voyage around 1250 BCE. The point where the Costa Concordia sank has been added.

Links January 12, 2012

Editorial: Just asking: why didn’t anyone object to the Americans at the NEB LNG hearings in Kitimat?

The Joint Review Panel hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline are less than 48 hours from now. The media are packing their bags and coming to Kitimat (or perhaps Terrace since this town is booked solid).

The propaganda war, and it can only be called a propaganda war, is in full force, driven mostly by right wing columnist Ezra Levant and his Ethical Oil organization, objecting to “foreign intervenors in the pipeline hearings at another site

This now seems to have widespread support, in a Twitter debate last night, many even moderate conservatives and even moderate Albertans were saying there is too much foreign influence in the JRP hearings.

I have one question for these people. Where were you in June? On a beach?

It was in June that the National Energy Board held hearings on the first of the three proposed Liquified Natural Gas projects in Kitimat. No media hordes descended on Kitimat. At those hearings only local reporters showed up and I was the only one that stuck through the entire proceedings. (The NEB did approve the export application)

So when the media quote Levant and his spokesperson Kathryn Marshall, the widespread stories about this malevolent foreign influence are inaccurate because they weren’t in Kitimat in June so they didn’t hear all those deep Texas drawls in the hearing room at the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.

Although a lot of good reporters are coming into town this week, they’ll all be gone by Thursday morning when the JRP hearings move on to Terrace.

So in today’s Sun Media papers Levant says:

Who should decide whether Canada should build an oil pipeline to our west coast — Canadian citizens or foreign interests?
That’s what the fight over the Northern Gateway pipeline is about. Sure, it’s also about $20 billion a year for the Canadian economy and thousands of jobs. It’s about opening up export markets in Asia. It’s about enough new tax dollars to pay for countless hospitals and schools.
But it’s really about Canadian sovereignty. Do we get to make our own national decisions, or will we let foreign interests interfere?
The answer should be obvious to any self-respecting Canadian: This is a Canadian matter, and Canadians should decide it.

Why weren’t Levant and the rest of the blue-eyed sheikh crowd (OK they don’t all have blue yes but you know what I mean) across the Rockies here in June objecting to those Americans interfering in Canadian affairs with their plans to export liquefied natural gas to Asia?

Who is behind the Kitimat LNG project? Well, the KMLNG partners are Houston, Texas based Apache Corporation, Houston, Texas based EOG Resources and Encana, a company that originated in Canada but now has extensive operations in the United States and around the world.

The second LNG project, which is now before the National Energy Board, is BC LNG, a partnership between a Houston, Texas-based energy company and the Haisla First Nation here in Kitimat.

The third LNG project is coming from energy giant Royal Dutch Shell.

When are we going to see Ethical Oil and all those conservative columnists objecting to American participation when the NEB holds hearings on the second and third LNG projects?

This goes all the way to the centre of power. Stephen Harper objects to the Northern Gateway hearings being “hijacked by foreign money.” I notice the Prime Minister didn’t object to the hearings in June with American companies Apache and EOG investing in a natural gas pipeline. Cabinet ministers Joe Oliver and Peter Kent are also concerned about foreign influence on pipeline projects. That is they are only worried about possible foreign influence when it comes to the environment. Foreign influences that are building natural gas pipelines and LNG terminal facilities are perfectly fine, thank you.

Blaming “foreign influence”, of course, is one of the oldest dirty tricks in the political playbook. In recent days Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has blamed foreign influence for the demonstrations against the rigged election in that country. In Syria, Bashir al-Assad is still blaming “foreign agitators” for the revolt against his regime. Before they were ousted, both Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Mohamar Gaddafi of Libya blamed “foreign agitators” for the Arab Spring. Go to Google News and type in “foreign influence” or “foreign agitators” and now that Google News also searches news archives, you can find stories of politicians all over the world blaming foreigners for their troubles going back to the turn of the last century.

It’s just sad to see Canada’s leading politicians and the major media joining that sorry tradition.

Note Natural Gas is not bitumen

Some in the media seems to be puzzled that most of the people in northern British Columbia are not objecting to the liquified natural gas projects. The media seem puzzled that KM LNG has been able to reach agreements with First Nations along the natural gas pipeline routes when Enbridge can’t.

(One factor is that Enbridge got off on the wrong foot with First Nations and things have generally gone downhill from there, leading people in northwest BC to question the general competence of Enbridge management.)

The answer is that natural gas is not bitumen. Natural gas is known factor. Bitumen, despite the thousands of pages of documents field by Enbridge with the JRP, is an unknown factor since there has never been a major bitumen disaster.

The worst case scenario, a catastrophic LNG ship explosion, could cause a huge forest fire. A natural gas pipeline breach under the right conditions could start a big forest fire. The environment of northwestern British Columbia has evolved to deal with fires. After such an incident, nature would take over and the forest would eventually come back. It is likely that the forest would take longer to recover than it would from a lightning strike fire, but the forest would recover. Bitumen leaking into salmon spawning rivers would kill the rivers. Bitumen stuck at the deep and rocky bottom of Douglas Channel would contaminate the region, probably for centuries.

It’s that simple.


Related Terrace Daily  No Apology Forthcoming by Gerald Amos

Harper concerned Joint Review hearings being “hijacked by foreign money”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters at a photo op in Edmonton on Friday, January 6, 2012, that he is concerned about the possibility that the Joint Review hearings on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would be “hijacked” by “foreign money, to really overload the public consultation of regulatory hearings for the purpose of slowing down the process.”

Harper said what he called the slow process of the hearings “was not good” for the Canadian economy, he said. “We have to have processes in Canada that come to a decision in a reasonable amount of time, and processes that cannot be hijacked,” Harper said. “The government of Canada will be taking a close look at how we can ensure our regulatory processes are effective and deliver decisions in a reasonable amount of time.”

Harper added that his government would be watching the Joint Review hearings closely and added his  government may  review the public consultation procedure to make sure they are not overloaded solely for the purpose of slowing down the process.

Harper’s comments did not identify the “foreign money,” but he was clearly referring to criticism from blogger Vivian Krause, the pro-bitumen sands group Ethical Oil and right wing columnists who are crusading against Canadian environmental groups for accepting money from U.S. sources. Harper, apparently, made no mention of foreign investment in the bitumen sands and the pipeline projects.