Bulk carrier strikes, destroys large section of trestle at B.C. coal terminal


A 939-foot coal carrier missed a turn and slammed into a causeway at a British Columbia terminal, destroying 400 feet of the trestle and conveyor.

The Panamanian-flagged Cape Apricot severely damaged part of Westshore Terminals in Delta’s Roberts Bank, south of Vancouver. The accident at North America’s largest coal-export terminal happened at about 0100 on Dec. 7, 2012.

The force of the impact tore a large section of the trestle apart, causing some coal to fall into the water. It’s the first spill ever at the facility, which opened in 1970. The terminal’s Berth 1 was closed indefinitely, said Ray Dykes, a spokesman for Westshore Terminals.

“The mishap spilled about one-third of a coal car into the water,” Dykes said. “We restored power onto Berth 1 on Friday so that we could lift the boom off the ship loader. We dealt with that and are looking at what major engineering studies have to be done to figure how quickly we can get back into operation.”

Before demolishing the loading causeway, Cape Apricot failed to make a starboard turn approaching Berth 2 and went through the causeway to Berth 1, which was loading another ship at the time. Cape Apricot took out 400 feet of loading causeway and utility links to Berth 1.

Using a portable generator, power was restored on the same day to Berth 1 to lift the loading boom from the downward position it had been in at the time of the collision, alleviating possible problems that could have occurred on a rising tide.

Later in December, Dykes said it was still unclear how or why the ship hit the causeway.

“Obviously there was a pilot on the bridge and two tugs in attendance. We haven’t seen anything officially on what happened,” he said.

Mohan Raman, investigator-in-charge for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, told Professional Mariner that the investigation is still ongoing and no determination on the cause had yet been made.

Capt. Fred Denning, president of British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., declined comment. The ship’s manager, Tokei Kaiun KK of Japan, couldn’t be reached.

There is concern in the region about increased coal exports. Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) was considering an application for a new coal facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, which would handle 8 million metric tonnes per year. There are plans under review to expand an existing facility at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver to increase capacity from 12 million to 18 million metric tonnes annually.

Vancouver’s mayor sent a letter to Robin Silvester, president and chief executive of PMV, stating that the proposals were going ahead with the possibility of public consultation. He called on PMV to clarify its position on public consultation into export proposals.

The city of Vancouver is concerned about increased marine traffic in Vancouver’s already-busy harbor in Burrard Inlet which expects increased oil tanker traffic as well.

Westshore Terminals has the world record for the largest amount of coal loaded on one vessel, having loaded 239,084 tons of coal onto a ship in May 1987. After loading a total of 8,300 ships loaded with over 700 million tonnes, this is the first incident of its kind at the terminal.

“In 42 years we’ve never been cited for a spill. … We’ve had a lot of ships come and go and never had a bother like this. It’s been a good run,” Dykes said.

By Professional Mariner Staff