Environment | Transportation | Ecotrope

Video: Climb Aboard A Bulk Carrier With Columbia River Pilots

Ecotrope | Feb. 26, 2013 6 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 1:32 p.m.

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Behind-the-scenes Columbia River pilot reporting trip from EarthFix on Vimeo.

Last week EarthFix reporter Katie Campbell and I took a ride on a 609-foot bulk carrier with Columbia River Pilot Capts. Anne McIntyre and Chuck Dobbins.

It’s the kind of ship companies could use to transport U.S. coal to Asia – and in fact the ship M/V Golden Wish has carried coal before. On our transit, it was empty and headed from Vancouver, Wash., to Portland to pick up scrap metal bound for China. Check out the Gopro footage of us boarding a pilot launch boat and then climbing the ladder to the ship above.

For two of the coal export projects proposed for the Northwest, the river pilots would be in charge of guiding ships loaded with coal down the Columbia River. The Millennium coal export project in Longview, Wash., and the Morrow Pacific coal export project in Boardman and the Port of St. Helens both rely on ships transiting the Columbia before heading out to sea. (Though the Morrow Pacific project would also use barges pulled by tugboats for part of the shipping route.)

The Columbia River Pilots would be in charge of making sure the coal export ships reach the mouth of the river safely. They climb aboard and take charge of the wheelhouse, directing the ship’s crew on the safest speed and direction through the shipping channel.

What do the pilots think about exporting coal? About increasing the number of ships on the river? Stay tuned. Next week, Capt. McIntyre will share her perspective as part of the EarthFix “Voices of Coal” series.

Check out the other voices in the series – from a rancher near a coal mine in Wyoming, a railway engineer, an asthma patient who lives near the railyard, a Washington labor leader and a Portland activist.

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