The Vancouver Island Tanker Fleet

Island Tug and Barge Fuel Carrier Island Trader

Island Tug and Barge Fuel Carrier Island Trader

Have you heard about the Vancouver Island Tanker Fleet? We have had a rather large one for some time you know.

Every time you fuel your car, your boat, your motorcycle, your lawnmower, your tractor or even one of those noisy horrible leaf blowing things, you are using fuel brought here by the Vancouver Island Tanker Fleet.

Each drop of gasoline may be delivered to your local gas station by truck, but each of those drops of fuel are first brought to our Island via tanker barge and tug, hundreds of thousands of liters at a time.

Just south of Cowichan Bay yet north of Mill Bay, (on land you’d be looking for Ratcliffe road, off Telegraph in Mill Bay) you’ll find this installation. It’s an offloading terminal regularly visited by Island Tug and Barge’s Island Monarch and Island Trader.  Gasoline, diesel fuel, furnace oil and other petroleum products are offloaded to the tank farm just up the hill. Island Tug and Barge runs one of the larger fleets of fuel delivery barges, serving everyone from tank farms to remote coastal communities and logging camps. They have been doing this sort of work for a while now, and they do it very well.

Island Monarch, in the barge pocket

Island Monarch, in the barge pocket

Take the Island Monarch for example. It may well be 6 months older than I am, (which makes it 47 already this year) but it’s been completely rebuilt (1995) and now features a unique interlocking mechanism which allows it to fit into it’s barge-mate, the Island Trader, effectively becoming a single vessel. It has two EMD engines giving a total of 3000hp and when busy burns some 10.8 t/day of fuel.

It’s barge-mate, the Island Trader, which is just over 112 meters long, has 12 separate fuel tanks with a combined capacity of some 65,320 barrels of whatever is needed on our side of the water. They only fill it to 95% capacity by the way.

Then there’s the BC Ferry fleet. Most people don’t think of them as tankers at all, but I assure you, they carry some of the highest fuel loads of any of the many vessels that pay call at Vancouver Island ports. The Coastal Inspiration for example, burns an average of 9,719 liters of diesel fuel for each round trip it makes between Tsawassen on the mainland and Duke Point, near Nanaimo. (Yes it’s a fuel pig, the Queen of Cowichan can do the round trip run for less than 6,400.) In fact, the ferry fleet uses some 18.8 million liters of fuel annually, and all of that fuel travels back and forth across our straits, bays and inlets until it’s burnt.

These ferries (and Seaspan’s truck freight barge operation) transport all manner of truck trailers back and forth across Georgia Strait, some of which are loaded with petroleum products. That bottle of motor oil you bought at Wal-Mart in Duncan last week, the liter of lamp oil from the Country Grocer, the pallet sized “cubes” of oil ordered by industrial operations for their equipment, the 5 gallon pails of grease, the power saw oil that keeps our North Island forest industry alive, even the vegetable oil that crisps your fries at your favorite restaurant, it all comes over by truck from the mainland and therefore to your door by vessel.

Do you live on one of the Gulf Islands? Saltspring perhaps? How about a more northerly one like Denman or Cortez or perhaps Quadra? Well you can, multiply everything I’ve said by the number of hops it takes to get that liter of fuel to your  location. A bottle of kerosene on Cortez or Hornby Islands needs to take three separate ferry hops before it gets to your cute little grocery store.

It’s a fact of life here on the Island, in fact on all the Islands, that we burn petroleum products on a daily basis. It’s also a fact that this product has to come via the water. Thus far professionalism and dedication to a job well done has ensured that this task is handled safely and with respect to the environment.

Something perhaps to think about next time you fuel up your vehicle, particularly if you happen to be on your way to protest the “tankers” that supposedly threaten our waterways. There’s an awful lot of them here already that never get talked about.

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  1. June 24th, 2013 at 08:32 | #1

    The staggering numbers you mention here, which are not so staggering once we start thinking about it, put an awful lot of pollution in the air. With the climate change that is happening everywhere now, and it is only in its beginning stages, development and use of alternative energies is stupidly overdue. With all due respect I say yes to keeping more tanker traffic away from the coast and from sailing the oceans. Also elimination of the use of fossil based fuels everywhere is the only way to the present civilization’s survival. Look around this world to see Armageddon rear its ugly head in more places all the time, due in large part, if not altogether, to our every increasing need for energy and the necessary fossil based fuel that feeds climate change. Climate change is the defining political issue in our world, and this well researched essay, exposing the numbers, shows exactly the problems we face as humanity on this world.

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