Inside Enbridge’s Straits Maritime Operations Center: 24/7 Straits of Mackinac Monitoring Operations

“The whole idea behind this is to make the Straits of Mackinac safer.”

Northern Michigan’s News Leader is getting an inside look at Enbridge’s safety measures in Straits of Mackinac.

The Enbridge Straits Maritime Operations Center is part of the oil company’s safety measures along their Line 5 pipeline. 09 22 2020 Enbridge Boat Ride Pkg 6

“Our interest is the safety of the waterway,” said Bob Lehto, Enbridge’s area operations manager for Northern Michigan.

He says the energy company started the Straits Maritime Operations Center back in October of 2019.

“We’ve evolved the program to be a 24/7, 365 operation that’s happening around the clock,” Lehto said. “The whole idea behind this is to make the Straits of Mackinac safer.”

Inside the operations center, crew members can track each and every vessel that comes into the Straits area, which is where their Line 5 pipeline lies under water.

“We track those ships in real-time and when they get within a certain proximity of the straits, we deploy vessels,” Lehto said.

As an additional safety measure, Enbridge deploys chase boats. They go out and do 365-degree inspections of vessels before they enter the Straits area. Enbridge wants to make sure anchors are in place and there are no other things that can damage the pipeline.

“We took this command center and moved it on land,” said Bill Hazel, vice president of marine services for Marine Pollution Control.

Hazel works with Enbridge as a contractor.

His company is the crew that man’s not only the chase boats, but also the patrol boat, which is out on the water 24/7.

“We keep an eye on every single boat that is passing through,” Hazel said. “We are trying to promote safe navigation through the Straits and we feel we are doing that.”

Enbridge wants to keep a close eye on everything going through the Straits.

“We’re literally looking at all vessels, all types, any craft that’s on the waters crossing over our pipelines,” Lehto said.

It’s an operation with one thing in mind.

“It’s about safety of the waterway, we’re going to any length that is necessary to protect these waters,” Lehto said.