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CN sues Westshore Terminals over coal accidents
Canadian National Railway is launching a series of lawsuits that accuse Westshore Terminals of acting negligently and questioning safety at the coal port. The civil claims, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, are from three accidents which took place in 2011 and 2012. In two of the accidents, CN alleges Westshore Terminals of negligence in dumping coal into trains cars at its Roberts Bank facility, causing a pair of locomotives to tip over.
In the 2011 incident, because the locomotive was inactive for repairs until April 13, CN says it suffered loss and damages, including but not limited to labour and materials, repair costs, shipping costs for the locomotive, and loss of use. As a result, CN is seeking an order for damages.
“CN submits that Westshore owed CN a duty of care and that Westshore’s conduct, in relation to the accident, created an unreasonable risk of harm and breached the standard of care expected of Westshore,” reads the statement of claim.
A third notice alleges a locomotive derailed on a track that wasn’t properly maintained and that no alarm was sounded because it wasn’t in service.
Denis Horgan, general manager for Westshore, said that CN only launched the lawsuit because the incident was in danger of becoming "stale-dated." CN had a two year time limit to file a claim against Westshore, and in fact Westshore has filed a counter-claim against CN over an alleged incident that damaged one of their coal dumpers.
"Occasionally, many of these accidents happen in our dumper building, which is an enclosed building so there's no environmental issue," he said. "But occasionally we do damage the odd rail car. It's very minor. Very rarely do we damage a locomotive."
Horgan said that because the locomotive isn't detached from the rail cars when a load become unbalanced then it can tip the locomotive over with it.
"There's all sorts of electronic safeguards and all the rest but sometimes human intervention can conspire to defeat all of those and that happened twice," he said, adding there's no way of knowing whether the fault was Westshore's or the positioning of the locomotive.
Westshore Terminals is North America’s largest export facility for coal and is on pace to break its record of 27.3 million tonnes in 2011. This is despite the fact a shipping accident last December destroyed a trestle leading to a loading berth and put it out of action for two months.
It was the first shipping accident related to the coal port since it was built in 1970.