OPINION: LNG transportation is a global success story

I feel compelled to offer a response to recent efforts to negatively portray the proposed development of a jetty adjacent to the existing Fortis LNG plant at Tilbury on the Fraser River, which may facilitate future LNG exports.

The commissioning of regular LNG shipments between Algeria and a purpose-built terminal at Canvey Island on the River Thames in 1964 marked the outcome of years of research and development into the feasibility of transporting LNG by sea. Today, around 18 significant exporting countries, including Australia, Qatar and our neighbours the United States, are supplying LNG to receiving terminals spread across the globe.

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Annual LNG consumption reached 359 million tons in 2019, reflecting annual demand growth of 12.5 per cent for the year, a new record. Looking ahead, annual global consumption is forecast to increase to 700 million by 2040 as a direct consequence of the industry’s unparalleled safety record and the widely accepted benefits of harnessing LNG as a primary source of global energy for several decades to come.

Dealing specifically with marine transportation, there are currently 605 LNG carriers in service and a further 136 on order. This includes vessels of all sizes and types, including LNG bunkering, multi-gas and regas vessels as the world’s merchant fleet also turns increasingly towards LNG as a fuel alternative.

This trend is already well established in the ferry industry, including here at home with both BC Ferries and Seaspan Ferries, but also internationally including car carriers, cruise and container ships, all having been accomplished without incident.

With respect to questions being asked of the safety of navigation on the Fraser River, the impeccable record of vessels operating safely speaks for itself. Contrary to suggestions from some, traffic levels in the Fraser River are relatively low by any international comparison and despite some success in attracting new business will remain low compared to actual capacity and the historical level of transits.

That said, measures have already been enacted within the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s mandate to take the safety of tanker and LNG traffic to an even higher level with the establishment of Clear Transit Areas applicable to tankers in product and LNG carriers.

This measure is further reinforced with a requirement for two Fraser River pilots on the bridge of such vessels at all times and, in the case of loaded tankers, a requirement for a minimum of two tethered tug escorts within the confines of the Fraser River. In the case of LNG carriers, in accordance with international best practices and following extensive simulation, this is increased to three tethered tugs whether in loaded or ballast condition.

I would hope that this letter will allay any concerns related to safety as Canada moves forward in development of an LNG export industry which will provide substantial economic growth and much needed revenues for all levels of government.

Capt. Stephen Brown is a former ship’s master having sailed extensively on the coast of B.C. He is a former president of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia and served as interim harbour master for the Port of Vancouver. He was awarded the Beaver Medal for Maritime Excellence by the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in 2016.

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