The Scourge of the American Petroleum Tankers That Prowl the British Columbia Coast - by INGMAR LEE (U.S. ATBs)


The Canadians have banned both tankers and ATBs from the best protected and safest inshore routes in Northern BC.

I think that was a very poor, politically correct, decision to appease local stakeholders.

If the Jake Shearer had been following the traditional well protected inside route (which the Canadians banned it from), the incident would not have occurred.

It would make a lot more sense to require pilots for oil transport and continue to use the inshore routes.


Completely agree,

Knee jerk reaction to public outcry rather than a reasonable response.


A sad truth is that most US tugs are very cheaply and very underequipped.

You make a good point: A good working skiff, ready to go, with a good launching and retreival system is worth it weight in gold. Yet, most American tugs do not have any skiff. When a tug does have a skiff, it’s often stored upside down with the outboard motor removed, and without any launching equipment.

This new Subchapter M tugboat inspection system is nothing but a small fig leaf to cover up the long-standing problems that are getting worse, not better.


Do we know for a fact that the Jake Shearer couldn’t have used the Inside route had they hired a pilot?


Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) Waiver System, New and Interim Measures

VANCOUVER, Oct. 24, 2016 /CNW/ -

Geographic Area: Compulsory Pilotage Waters, BC


After a review of the recent Nathan E. Stewart tugboat incident in Bella Bella, the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) is announcing new and interim measures regarding waiver exemptions for ships and ships transporting petroleum cargo products.

Currently, ships over 350 gross tons but under 10,000 gross tons (mostly tugs and barges) are granted waivers if the operator meets certain conditions. Effective immediately, the following additional conditions will be implemented for these vessels:

  • Every ship holding a waiver entering a compulsory pilotage area must notify the PPA and provide a list of the waiver holders’ names;
  • Every ship must have two people on the bridge at all times, one of whom must be the waiver holder;
  • Every ship may be subject to random checks by the PPA;
  • Every ship may be asked to supply the PPA with log extracts to indicate who was on the bridge at a specific time;
  • The Master is to be on the bridge during the following transits:
a. First Narrows (Vancouver Harbour)
b. Second Narrows (Vancouver Harbour)
c. Fraser River transit
d. Seymour Narrows
e. Race and Current passage
f. Blackney Pass, Weynton Pass and Broughton Pass
g. Bella Bella
h. Boat Bluff
i. Grenville Channel from Lowe Inlet to Morning Reef

Additional route restrictions (subject to consultations with affected industry stakeholders) will also be put in place for all vessels transporting petroleum products through the compulsory pilotage areas. These restrictions will not apply to vessels delivering fuel to remote locations and communities on the BC Coast.

*** The northern section of the inside passage is off limits (Grenville Channel, Princess Royal Channel, Finlayson Channel, Seaforth Channel, Lama Pass and Fitzhugh Channel).**
*** Vessels are to follow a route between the Mainland and Haida Gwaii after leaving Gordon Channel at the north east corner of Vancouver Island.**
*** In adverse weather conditions and after clearance with vessel traffic, the vessel can proceed through Laredo and Principe by entering via Laredo Sound or Browning Entrance.**

A five day implementation period will apply to vessels carrying petroleum who are subject to these additional route restrictions and are already in, or in transit to, these areas.

Quick facts

  • The Pacific Pilotage Authority is a Crown corporation created in 1972 under the Pilotage Act . Its mandate is to provide safe, reliable and efficient marine pilotage and related services in the coastal waters of British Columbia, including the Fraser River.


“The Pacific Pilotage Authority strives to be a world leader in marine pilotage. Part of this goal is learning from and adapting to challenges. The lessons learned from the Nathan E. Stewart incident, and the measures introduced today, will help us increase the safe, reliable and efficient marine pilotage of B.C.'s coastal waters for certain vessels.”

Kevin Obermeyer
Chief Executive Officer

The Pacific Pilotage Authority is online at

SOURCE Pacific Pilotage Authority

For further information: Brian Young, Director of Marine Operations, 604-666-8668,


This makes it look like the Pacific Pilotage Authority had the authority to change the regs on their own.


Here is a picture of the Dutch flagged sea going tug ‘Fairplay 23’ with at the port side the skiff covered by a blue tarpaulin and the launching crane. In this business a good work boat is essential both for salvage and towing operations. I cannot see how you can do without it, eerie.


  • Towing Hook Seebeck 55 tons.

  • 2 x Ulstein Brattvaag SL50 1 T brake load 125 tons 1.400 / 1.400 m towing wire


It appears that PPA is the only pilotage rulemaking authority in BC. However, I have no idea how their rulemaking process works or how long it takes.

An April 2018 Transport Canada study, that I haven’t read yet, makes a lot of nationwide and location specific pilotage recommendations. I assume that most of these sweeping recommendations would require action by Trudeau and the Canadian Parliament. Undoubtedly, some could be done by the PPA. Among them, is a recommendation that BC Indian Tribes be given a seat on the PPA board of directors.


Nice looking tug. There are not many tugs of that quality and capability in the US. Most of the coastwise fleet is 40 to 50 years old.

There are a lot of new ASD Harbor tugs and a few new modern coastwise tugs.


I can see a place for ATB’s around the Northern Territories of Australia and Indonesia as long as they repaired to some safe haven when there was a cyclone warning.
South of that no chance. If they have trouble in a 4 metre swell and 50 knots the unit wouldn’t survive summer never mind the winter.


2 posts were split to a new topic: Dutch Tugs


Environment Canada

There’s more than just Haida People who have a stake in those fisheries, even some white people.

If it weren’t for public opinion, many irresponsible practices would go unchecked as long as they offered short-term, short-sighted profits.

Given that coastal First Nations, particularly around Bella Bella, have thousands of years of experience as mariners in those waters, it’d be stupid to not give them a place at the table.


wrt the knee jerk reaction, it’s inevitable in this case that policy would be driven by simple-minded public outcry. In aviation there is public trust that after an incident there is a system in place that will take the appropriate action.

In maritime transportation of petroleum there is instead mistrust that the system will respond appropriately.

In this case perhaps the PPA took the companies at their word, that in the case of bad weather the tugs would break out of the notch and tow astern.


Jake Shearer is not designed to intentionally come out of the notch to tow astern in rough weather.

It was designed by Entech Designs in Houma, LA (who designed similar tugs for Penn Maritime), and built by Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, La. It was the second of three ATBs Conrad built for Harley. The first ATBs that Conrad has built.

In my opinion all they have is a half-assed emergency towing contingency set up that they never expected to use. Apparently, they were not able to use it when they needed it.


The industry is taking a risk of a knee-jerk regulatory response when they move petroleum in unseaworthy boats.

In any case depending only upon Canadian regulations to keep the risks associated with marine transportation of oil at an appropriate level is a very inefficient approach.


Designed to meet Coast Guard regulations not to actually work.


Sometimes I wonder why the oil companies don’t hire somebody like me to do their vetting. Then I realize that if I were vetting, I’d promptly be fired for being too honest and telling them things that they don’t want to hear.

If the oil companies demanded top quality equipment that was properly crewed, it would probably raise the price of gasoline at the pump by 1 cent per gallon.

Most of the medium to large tug and barge companies today are run by accountants and lawyers. No mariners in sight.


And if they used proper tankers to do the same, how much would that add to the cost per Gl. at the pump??
Since they would be offering faster, safer and more reliable service, maybe not anything at all.


There is a place in oil transportation for tankers of various sizes, ATBs, and conventional tugs and barges. It’s just a matter of using the proper high quality tool for the job at hand.


The people in the office got no skin in the game. The head of Harley Marine should do some jail time, that’d turn thing around quick.