About

You’ve heard of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tankers project. But you may not know that there is another threat to the Pacific Coast, not from tankers but from smaller vessels known as ATBs: articulated tug barges.   These rivergoing vessels are being used to tranport millions of litres of refined petroleum products, diesel, and gas through the Salish Sea and along the Pacific Coast to Alaska.

On both sides of the border, we’re joining forces to defend #onecoast and make shipping safe. 

One Coast is an alliance of organizations and concerned citizens throughout Cascadia/the Pacific Coast. We are working together to press for safer shipping to protect the economies, cultures and communities who rely on a clean coast.

Reports & Latest News

Tracking Fossil Fuels in the Salish Sea

The recent history of barge incidents and documentation of the movements of barges carrying dilbit crude oil within the Salish Sea underscores the need to make improvements to the region’s oil spill prevention and response capacity. Even if the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline does not occur, the oil currently moving within and...

The Great Bear Sea And Rainforest – Still At Risk Under North Coast Tanker Ban

The Canadian government passed the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act (Bill C-48), joining the Coastal First Nations in upholding a ban on oil tankers in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii since 2010. The tanker ban legislation does not affect any of the current traffic...

A short history of ATBs in the Great Bear Rainforest with Ingmar Lee

TRANSCRIPT:   "What I'd like to see is American Petroleum tankers out of the BC Inside Passage. They shouldn't be here: they should go offshore where all the other tankers have to go. There's no other big tankers allowed in the BC Inside Passage. These tankers carry...

Indigenous marine response centre breathing life into reconciliation

By Saul Brown in National Observer — Opinion, Energy, Politics | April 6th 2018 The Haíłzaqv (Heiltsuk) are marine people. Our oral history confirms our existence in our territory since time immemorial. Archeological evidence corroborates that my people have...

Tracking Fossil Fuels in the Salish Sea

The recent history of barge incidents and documentation of the movements of barges carrying dilbit crude oil within the Salish Sea underscores the need to make improvements to the region’s oil spill prevention and response capacity. Even if the proposed expansion of...

The Great Bear Sea And Rainforest – Still At Risk Under North Coast Tanker Ban

The Canadian government passed the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act (Bill C-48), joining the Coastal First Nations in upholding a ban on oil tankers in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii since 2010. The tanker ban legislation does not affect any of the current traffic...

VIDEO

 

In this video, meet Fred Felleman, Frank Brown and Kathy Brown —
three powerful voices advocating for shipping safety to protect our home.

As a result of this visit, and due to the recent accidents and increasing use of ATBs, the 2018 Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 6269 which provides an opportunity to improve the safety of these little-known oil carriers.  The Bill included direction for the Washington State Department of Ecology to complete a vessel safety report on reducing oil spill risks posed by tanker, oil barge and ATB traffic in the Salish Sea by December 1, 2018. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Isn't there a ban on tankers on British Columbia's North coast?
 

The tanker ban legislation does not affect any of the current traffic carrying petroleum products through the region. This includes 10,000 deadweight ton tug and barge shipments to Alaska transiting the B.C. Inside Passage, on average making one return trip every ten days with no stops in Canada. These shipments are approximately four times the volume of the largest domestic fuel deliveries to communities and industry on the central coast.

In recent months Canada’s Federal government has announced several moves towards better marine management along the north and central coast of British Columbia — the region also called the Great Bear Sea because it borders and intertwines with the Great Bear Rainforest. Long-awaited investments in emergency and spill response capacity for coastal communities, marine protected areas network planning together with First Nations and the province, habitat restoration, and a legislated tanker ban hold the promise of lasting biodiversity protection and livelihood security for coastal peoples. But can any of these measures really protect the Great Bear Sea when large shipments of toxic petroleum products will continue to transit its waters?

Why are ATB's an accident waiting to happen?
In October, 2016, the Nathan E. Stewart, an articulated tug-barge (ATB) owned by Texas-based Kirby Marine Ltd., went aground near the Heiltsuk Nation community of Bella Bella on the central coast on its return trip from Alaska. Thankfully the barge was empty, but the tug itself spilled more than 100,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in an area of extremely high commercial and cultural importance to the Heiltsuk, where over 25 species were actively harvested.

On November 26, 2017, the Harvey Marine ATB Jake Shearer lost its barge loaded with 67,000 barrels of diesel and 11,000 barrels of gasoline in a storm only one mile off the Goose Island group, again in Heiltsuk territory. The barge was just one anchor away from landing up on one of the most spectacular sections of coastline in the region, and had to be towed away by another tug. 

Can oil spills be cleaned up from ATBs?
There is no spill response technology or protocol in the world that can clean up more than a small fraction of product spilled in the ocean.  Even though the Nathan E. Stewart spill was relatively small and occurred close to a population and marine traffic centre for the central coast, it proved nearly impossible to contain. The only recovery of petroleum product from the wreck was the result of divers being able to transfer fuels directly from the tanks of the sunken vessel. The tug remained on the reef for a month, leaking toxic fluids, surrounded by an expensive but ineffective circus of response vessels and clean-up crews. The toll that such an environmental disaster exacts on ecosystems – and Indigenous communities in particular – cannot be measured or mitigated with mere dollars.
How are ATBs allowed to carry dangerous fuels through the Inside Passage?
The Nathan E. Stewart and Jake Shearer ATBs are among other Alaska-bound fuel barges that transit the confined and intricate Inside Passage under a special waiver, while all other tanker traffic must travel offshore around Vancouver Island and westward from Haida Gwaii, outside the voluntary tanker exclusion zone. Since the Nathan E. Stewart spill, ATB vessels are no longer permitted in several channels on the Inside Passage, and Kirby Corp. (the company who operates the Nathan E. Stewart and other ATBs) vessels must carry a Canadian pilot. However, they now travel the more exposed and dangerous passage through Hecate Strait (the waters between Haida Gwaii and the central and north coast archipelago). ATB vessels were originally designed for inland waterways; their seaworthiness in the 10 metre seas that often rage in shallow Hecate Strait is a major cause for concern.
What's the History of ATBs
Articulated Tug/Barge (ATB) sets now dominate the Pacific Coast’s fossil fuel products trade and are being designed and built on to handle liquid as well as dry bulk and unitized commodities. These vessels have been in operation for 2 decades despite the ongoing questions about their ability to safely handle product along the open Pacific coastline.

As US labour costs in the coastal trades increased during the 1960s, and towed barges continued to suffer substantial delays during heavy weather, particularly in the petroleum sector, the idea of a tug pushing rather than pulling a barge was examined. Even though very large oil barges of up to 250,000 bbls capacity were being built and put into service, the hydrodynamic disadvantages of towing them was becoming highly evident. This brought the ATB concept where a barge would be pushed rather than pulled to enhance both speed and maneuverability.

Because of the lower manning requirement for a tug, ATB owners could also expect a substantial reduction in operating costs. The idea was to physically lock the two units together securely enough for a safe open-ocean passage. However, once separated, the tug often prove that they have not been designed to operate independently, at least not on the open ocean. Visibility is also a problem as a pilot must view obstacles from behind the full length of the tug that extends in front of the wheelhouse.

 

What are the goals of the One Coast campaign?
We aim to strengthen marine safety protocols, including ensuring that the special waiver under which ATBs now operate in the Great Bear Sea is revoked. Further, we aim to lobby regulators for more stringent safety measures that would treat ATB like the fossil fuel carriers that they are, and send them offshore just like regular tankers. The cost-savings of running ATBs through the Salish Sea are no justification for these ships — originally designed for rivers, not the open ocean — to be plying high traffic waterways adjacent to where we work, play, and live. Because ATBs travel so close to our Pacific coastal communities, we demand that these ticking time bombs be stopped.