Tankers keep us out of the Stone Age

Without tanker traffic on the waters, our civilization would look much different

Thanks for printing my letter (‘Ill-informed opinions’) on April 2 and I was delighted to see it provoked a response (‘Who is ill-informed?’) from Bill Vinton on April 9.

Vinton doesn’t know me, nor I him, yet he claimed that he was on site cleaning the UK’s first major oil spill in 1967,and I wasn’t. In fact, I was at my birthplace in Cornwall, UK, taking a short leave from my employment as Navigating Officer with Elder Dempster Lines of Liverpool, and vividly remember everything about the grounding of Torrey Canyon on Pollard’s Rock at Seven Stones Reef.

However, I’m thankful Vinton acknowledged that thousands of mariners like me have sailed for several decades, yet never experienced an oil spill. The inconvenient truth is that at any given second of any day, many billions of barrels of crude oil are being safely and efficiently delivered by millions of tanker-tonnage to thousands of destinations around the globe. The professional mariners on board are acutely aware of their responsibilities to the environment as well as to their employers, but whenever men and machines coincide an accident is always a possibility.

You’ll note that I use the word “possibility” and not the word “inevitability” that the anti-tankeristas  —  whether they be environmental activists, professional media pundits or amateur scribblers  —  invariably use.

There are terrible highway accidents involving all types of motor vehicles; horrible plane crashes; heart-breaking train-wrecks; the list goes on and on. Yet nobody talks of outright bans on motor vehicles, planes or trains. Instead, they strive to improve the efficiency of these machines, and improve safety regulations to prevent further tragedies. That was exactly the principle for my wife and I, when my letter referred to our combined 40 years of oil-spill-free deep-sea experience.

If there was never progress in all realms of transportation, the world would be stuck in the Stone-Age, before the invention of the wheel. Once again, the inconvenient truth is that many anti-tankeristas seem to be quite willing to use this Stone-Age mentality regarding tankers, while simultaneously driving their gasoline-powered vehicles to big-box stores to purchase all the Chinese plastic goods, all derived from crude oil, of course.

Bernie Smith