Engineers battle coastal tankers

Brian Gunn forms Concerned Professional Engineers

Photo: Aframax tanker negotiating the Second Narrows Bridge in the Burrard Inlet.


By Catherine Gilbert

From his office located on the second floor of the log home overlooking Upper Campbell Lake that he shares with partner Myrna Boulding, Brian Gunn has been working tirelessly for the past 15 years to make a better BC. 

He works without any expect of a reward; in fact often traveling and hiring help at his own expense. A retired engineer and former owner of a dude ranch in the Cariboo, Gunn is also past president of the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC, an organization that gives a voice to adventure tourism operators on issues such as land use and park permits. 

He is nearing his 80th birthday, yet still remains engaged in various advocacy issues and has garnered a reputation for getting things done.

The Second Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1979 when a ship collided with it

His latest project has been to form an organization known as Concerned Professional Engineers, or CPE that is composed of other retired engineers as well as a professor of engineering at UBC, Dr. Ricardo Fosci. The CPE have joined forces to challenge the methods in which oil products are being shipped from and along the coast of British Columbia. 

It all began with a trip up the northern coast of BC in the summer of 2012, starting in Bella Coola and ending in Kitimat, when Gunn and Norm Allyn interviewed residents and local politicians about their attitudes towards the proposed Northern Gateway Project. This developed into applying with the National Energy Board for Intervenor status, being accepted and attending the hearings at Prince Rupert. 

The CPE expressed the concern that NG intended to ship dilbit (diluted bitumen) by tanker out of Kitimat.  Kitimat is located 300 km from the open Pacific, and to reach the ocean, tankers would have to navigate narrow, foggy, stormy passages in an area of some of BC’s most pristine ocean environment. 

Instead of Kitimat, the CPE felt that Enbridge should have been considering alternative ports such as Port Simpson or Prince Rupert. One of their other major concerns is that not enough testing has been done to know how dilbit behaves in a marine environment and that the consequences of a major spill are unknown.

The map shows the position of both the First and Second Narrows Bridges in Burrard Inlet

Most recently, the CPE has been challenging Kinder Morgan’s proposal to increase their transport of oil through the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver from one day per week to seven days (the TransMountain Expansion). Already, alarm bells were going off when the CPE considered the danger in having any large tankers at all progress through the inlet, passing the First and Second Narrows bridges before arriving at the open ocean. 

They have proposed that Kinder Morgan should change its shipping terminal to Roberts Bank, just outside Tsawwassen, which would place the oil tankers away from the city.

As spokesperson for the CPE, Gunn likes to make it clear that the CPE are not against the oil industry and understand its relationship to Canadian economic growth.

They are however, concerned about protecting the British Columbia coast and its environment. They wish to provide an informed view of how projects such as Northern Gateway and the Transmountain Expansion can be made as safe as humanly possible. As Gunn says, “there is no such thing as 100 percent safe, but we know that there are safer alternatives than what are being currently proposed.”

Visit their website for details on what action the CPE has been taking, and what they propose still needs to be done.

Catherine Gilbert is a Citizen Journalist currently in Victoria writing a graduate thesis about Strathcona Park and continues to assist Brian Gunn with CPE correspondence. She can be reached through her website