Ottawa to Mulls Banning U.S.-bound Tankers from N.B. Waterway

Monday, September 10, 2007
The Canadian Press reported that federal politicians say Canada is considering regulations to ban liquefied natural gas supertankers from a sensitive waterway in the Bay of Fundy, risking renewed territorial tensions with the United States.

Maxime Bernier, Canada's new minister of foreign affairs, assured a citizens' group on Sunday that Canada is opposed to the prospect of LNG supertankers navigating the treacherous waters that lead into Passamaquoddy Bay between Maine and New Brunswick.

Passamaquoddy Bay lies between Maine and New Brunswick and any supertanker traffic would have to cross through Head Harbour Passage, a narrow waterway that Canada considers internal waters. While the U.S. State Department agrees the passage is Canadian, it considers it a territorial sea in which commercial ships enjoy the right of innocent passage under international law. Currently, two U.S. proposals for LNG terminals on the Maine side of the bay are making their way through the U.S. regulatory process. Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently told President George W. Bush that Canada will not permit tankers through Head Harbour Passage, the Maine LNG proposals are continuing to be reviewed.

Last February, Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, informed U.S. officials of Canada's position on LNG tanker traffic in the bay, but it has not derailed the plans of the LNG developers. Quoddy Bay LNG has chosen a site near Eastport, Maine, across from Deer Island, N.B., and near the Old Sow - one of the world's largest ocean whirlpools. Downeast LNG is seeking approval for a site near Robbinston, Maine, directly across from the seaside resort town of St. Andrews, N.B.

Thompson said the federal departments of Fisheries, Foreign Affairs and Transport are all examining possible shipping regulations outlawing tanker traffic in the area. Harvey reminded Canadian officials that the Canada Shipping Act bestows broad powers on the transport minister to bring in regulations to protect the public and environment from risks posed by shipping.

She said the minister has the power prohibit specific routes or cargo, as well as the size of vessels. People opposing the LNG terminals say the potential tanker traffic poses a serious environmental threat to the pristine waters of Passamaquoddy Bay, a popular tourist destination for both Canadians and Americans. (Source: Canadian Press)

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