Columbia River pilot Anne McIntyre boards vessels that are longer than skyscrapers are tall and navigates them with precision through the Columbia River’s narrow channels.
If coal export terminals are built along the river, McIntyre could find herself navigating bulk carriers laden with coal. But she says that won’t change how she does her job
“Coal is not any more or less precious than any other cargo we transport,” McIntyre says. “I don’t view a coal ship as being any different than any other ship that I navigate. We’re vigorously neutral on all cargos.”
McIntyre is one of many voices featured in the EarthFix “Voices of Coal” series, which includes perspectives on coal export projects from a rancher who lives near a coal mine, a labor organizer, an anti-coal artist, a train engineer, the mayor of Camas, Wash., a woman who lives near the railroad tracks, and a tribal fisherman.
For many years, McIntyre says, the main purpose of the river pilots’ was to move cargo and protect ships. Since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, though, their priority has been protecting the environment.
“A pilot’s job is to mitigate risk,” McIntyre says. “We view ourselves as being on the front lines of defending the environment.”
McIntyre has never seen a collision or spill in her 16 years. The way she sees it, the risk of a coal spill is about nil. If a ship were to run aground, the coal would be in hatches above the water line.