Port Metro Van­cou­ver Fire

RCN News - - Contents - By K. Joseph Spears

The re­cent chem­i­cal fire at DP World’s Cen­term con­tainer ter­mi­nal in Port Metro Van­cou­ver on March 4, 2015, which burned for over 24 hours, high­lights the risks as­so­ci­ated with the marine trans­porta­tion of goods in Canada’s largest port. The fire also showed cit­i­zens that all marine re­sponse is lo­cal. While the reg­u­la­tion of the marine trans­port of dan­ger­ous goods is reg­u­lated by the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s IMDG Code, it is based on an honor sys­tem which re­quires ship­pers to pro­vide de­tailed in­for­ma­tion on what is car­ried in­side con­tain­ers. That in­for­ma­tion is not shared in ad­vance with first re­spon­ders by trans­port Canada or port Metro Van­cou­ver. First re­spon­ders only learn about this when re­spond­ing to 911 in­ci­dents in real time.

Van­cou­ver Fire Res­cue Ser­vices, work­ing in con­junc­tion with other first re­spon­ders, the pri­vate sec­tor and Port Metro Van­cou­ver, did an awe­some job in ex­tin­guish­ing the fire that gave rise to a plume of toxic smoke from a 20-foot con­tainer con­tain­ing trichloroiso­cya­nuric acid, a haz­ardous or­ganic com­pound that can be used as an in­dus­trial dis­in­fec­tant, which fu­elled the fire at the con­tainer ter­mi­nal. The cargo was on an in­ter­na­tional voy­age from China to Eastern Canada with a por­tion by rail and also truck.

Clearly, the on­go­ing train­ing in the port of Van­cou­ver for marine re­sponse for haz­ardous and dan­ger­ous goods com­monly known as HNS paid off in this case. Marine re­sponse is a team sport and the com­plex­ity of this in­ci­dent in­volv­ing just a 20-foot con­tainer could have been much more se­vere, es­pe­cially if this had oc­curred on the ves­sel and the crew had aban­doned ship, and/or other dan­ger­ous com­modi­ties had been ig­nited which could have de­vel­oped into a se­ri­ous long-term fire re­leas­ing gaseous fumes that could have been very haz­ardous to the public.

While Premier Christy Clark has called for a “world­class re­sponse” to pos­si­ble marine pol­lu­tion aris­ing from pro­posed energy ex­ports, the March 4 in­ci­dent clearly shows a re­quire­ment for world-class re­sponse to the present move­ment of bulk and pack­aged HNS car­goes mov­ing in the port. Port Metro Van­cou­ver, Canada’s largest port, han­dles over $187 bil­lion of cargo each year, with a large per­cent­age of dan­ger­ous car­goes. While the reg­u­la­tion of dan­ger­ous car­goes across all modes of trans­porta­tion is gov­erned by the gov­ern­ment of Canada’s Trans­port Canada, there is a clear need for a ro­bust and re­silient re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity at the lo­cal level. We saw that in ac­tion with Van­cou­ver Fire Res­cue Ser­vices.

To main­tain this world-class re­sponse, we need sus­tained fund­ing for public safety and the need for ex­er­cises train­ing and, more im­por­tantly, ad­vance no­tice of dan­ger­ous car­goes so that first re­spon­ders around the port can be aware of these sit­u­a­tions and take plan­ning and re­sponse man­age­ment in ad­vance. This in­ci­dent is a wake-up call to en­sure that Van­cou­ver has the abil­ity to re­spond to these in­ci­dents. We’ve seen in north­ern On­tario that there have been three oil by rail de­rail­ments in a month. Sim­i­lar car­goes are mov­ing through the Port of Van­cou­ver, and we need to be ready for these in­ci­dents. It is not the time to learn the na­ture of a cargo while re­spond­ing to a 911 call.

In the af­ter­math of this in­ci­dent, whose re­sponse was world-class, we need to un­der­take a truth to power dis­cus­sion to look at all the lessons that can be learned. The best way to do this is via a third-party in­de­pen­dent re­view, so that re­sponse can be im­proved and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and is­sues can be ad­dressed be­fore the next in­ci­dent.

The Port of Van­cou­ver is an in­te­gral part of Van­cou­ver and Canada’s econ­omy, and we need to in­vest in train­ing and the re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity across all lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Van­cou­ver’s Fire Res­cue Ser­vices gave Van­cou­verites a glimpse of what world-class looks like at the at the burn­ing con­tainer face. World-class re­sponse also re­quires lead­er­ship at the gov­er­nance level, es­pe­cially the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which is the lead reg­u­la­tor on haz­ardous and dan­ger­ous goods. If the gov­ern­ment of Canada doesn’t take this role, then it’s up to the province and mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers to step into this void. This re­quires sus­tained fund­ing for equip­ment and train­ing and ex­er­cises.

World-class re­sponse also means look­ing at the gaps and weak­nesses and build­ing on these find­ings in a full and frank dis­cus­sion so that we are ready to re­spond to fu­ture marine in­ci­dents. As a coun­try and as a city, we should not be afraid to ask the dif­fi­cult ques­tions. The history of marine re­sponse and reg­u­la­tion has been based on a foun­da­tion of past marine in­ci­dents, and we need to en­hance our re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity and alert­ing pro­ce­dures. World-class means the abil­ity to look at in­ci­dents in a crit­i­cal fash­ion. We will be a bet­ter port and coun­try for it. The March 4, 2015 port fire is a wake-up call, and a call to ac­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.