From 2009 to 2010, Enbridge has 194 reported oil spills, leaks and releases (Forestethics, 2016). Since oil spills are a common occurrence, the physical characteristics of the Northern Pacific British Columbia region need to be assessed before tanker operations commence. For the purpose of this study, risk is defined as the likelihood of an oil spill from tankers. By using GIS software this study analyzes the associated variables in this region that contribute to the risk of oil tanker spills to identify the most hazardous route and areas. Based on reviewed literature, contributing variables to an oil spill occurrence are wave heights, dangerous marine hazards (i.e. rip tides and whirlpools), proximity to land, shallow waters, proximity to loading area, marine traffic and human error (Eide et al., 2007; Knudsen, 2009).
Objective 1: Investigate the physical factors that contribute to a higher risk of oil spills from tankers and identify surrounding areas of ecological importance.
Objective 2: Develop an oil spill risk model using a weighted Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) and apply the model to each of the proposed shipping routes of the Northern Gateway pipeline project, to identify the route that presents the most risk.
Objective 3: Apply the output of the oil spill risk model to the ecologically important areas to establish vulnerability based on proximity to the identified areas of extreme oil spill risk.
Objective 4: Evaluate the strengths and limitations of the total risk map including the oil tanker risk model and ecologically important area distance analysis.