February 5, 2018 1:02 pm

Amid Kinder Morgan feud, Liberals post tender for promised coast guard towing vessels

A tanker is anchored in Burrard Inlet just outside of Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. The federal government is seeking a way to regulate underwater shipping noise as part of its plan to protect an endangered group of killer whales from increased oil tanker traffic off Vancouver.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
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Days after pipeline protesters greeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of his town hall on Vancouver Island, the federal government has posted a tender to try to lock down two promised emergency towing vessels that can be in the water starting this fall.

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According to a tender notice posted on the government procurement website Monday morning, firms that want to submit bids to lease the two vessels to the government for three years can pitch their plans to do so later this month in Ottawa. Interested firms will have to submit final bids by the middle of March, with delivery of the first vessel due no later than Sept. 30, 2018.

The second vessel must be delivered by Sept. 30, 2019, though it remains to be seen whether those deadlines will actually be met given federal procurement when it comes to vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard can frequently face years-long delays.

READ MORE: Pipeline politics boil over in Trudeau’s Vancouver Island town hall 

Trudeau announced plans to acquire the two vessels in November 2016 in the Oceans Protection Plan, a $1.5-billion federal program aimed at improving marine safety and responsible shipping.

That plan came shortly after the National Energy Board approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in May 2016, which will triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

Tanker traffic in the Burnaby terminal is expected to increase from roughly five vessels per month to 34 per month because of the expansion.

WATCH ABOVE: Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr tells Vassy Kapelos his government will judge British Columbia by the action it takes in its consultation process but when it comes to major energy infrastructure the federal government will make the decisions and take action.

The extra traffic means there is a greater possibility that a tanker could crash or spill its load along the coast of B.C. and cause significant damage to the marine ecosystems located there, and the request for proposal posted online noted those in its summary of the tender.

“With increased traffic, there is potential increased risk of having a vessel that has lost power or navigational control,” the tender reads.

“This may result in collision or grounding of a vessel leading to spills and causing a significant risk to crew, other vessels, and the marine environment, including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population and other species at risk.”

READ MORE: Ottawa won’t tolerate long delays on Trans Mountain, federal minister says

It continues to note that the goal of the rapid procurement effort is to help the Canadian Coast Guard to “immediately increase its capacity to mitigate risks of disabled large commercial vessels off Canada’s coast.”

Concerns around those risks brought out protesters to a town hall event held by the prime minister on Vancouver Island last week.

Three hecklers who appeared to be criticizing Trudeau for approving the pipeline were removed from the town hall within the first 20 minutes, while questions about why he had allowed the pipeline expansion to go ahead dominated the rest of the gathering.

WATCH BELOW: Trudeau hugs woman begging for him to ‘protect our coastline’ referencing Kinder Morgan pipeline

Alberta and B.C. are currently locked in a battle over whether the B.C. NDP government has the right to ban the expansion of oil imports through the province, with Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley vowing to retaliate and Trudeau suggesting the feud may require federal intervention.

Supporters of the pipeline argue it is vital to Alberta’s ongoing economic recovery, while opponents argue the risk of a spill along the B.C. coast poses too great a risk to be allowed to proceed.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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