Island elected officials and First Nations call for Vessel Arrival System at the Port of Vancouver
August 6, 2021
Elected officials and First Nations are asking the federal government to address the problems with freighter anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands by implementing a Vessel Arrival System (VAS) at the Port of Vancouver.
The request comes three years after Transport Canada created the Interim Protocol covering thirty-three designated anchorage sites in and around the Southern Gulf Islands. Those free parking spots are now in near-constant use by foreign bulk freighters waiting to load cargo at the Port of Vancouver. First Nations, local governments and grassroots community organizations have made it very clear that the light, noise, pollution and environmental degradation caused by freighters are not welcome.
Today, MP Paul Manly (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), sent a letter to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra signed by local community leaders representing the areas affected by the anchorages. MPs, MLAs, First Nations leaders, Regional District of Nanaimo board members, the Cowichan Valley Regional District board, the Capital Regional District board and the Islands Trust board have all signed on to the letter.
“The Port of Vancouver is very efficient when it comes to the loading and unloading of container ships. It’s inefficiencies in the shipment of bulk goods, particularly grain and coal, that is creating the high demand for anchorage,” said Manly. “These inefficiencies at the Port of Vancouver cost Prairie grain farmers a reported $28 million per year.”
On May 11th, Manly tabled Motion M-85 calling on the government to implement a Vessel Arrival System. The letter to the Transport Minister, which is based on Manly’s research, outlines successful solutions implemented by other jurisdictions that have dealt with similar anchorage problems.
The Port of Newcastle in Australia had similar issues with inefficiencies and large numbers of freighters at anchor. Residents complained but the government failed to act until a freighter dragged anchor and washed up on a local popular beach. In response, Newcastle implemented a Vessel Arrival System that requires freighters to contact the port 14 days ahead of their anticipated arrival. Port authorities can then require a vessel to slow down to match its arrival to its loading time at the port. The system has been a success. Two-thirds of vessels loading at Newcastle no longer anchor at all, and the remainder have dropped from an average of eleven days at anchor to just three days.
Slowing freighters down for just-in-time loading has the added benefit of burning less bunker fuel at sea and burning less diesel at anchor, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating cost savings for the shipping companies.
“Implementing a Vessel Arrival System is a sensible solution. We’ve almost had our own Newcastle beach moment twice here in the Southern Gulf Islands,'' said Manly. “In March 2020 a freighter dragged anchor and collided with another freighter in Plumper Sound, puncturing the hull of the second freighter. A month later another freighter dragged anchor and almost reached the shore near Transfer Beach in Ladysmith. Transport Canada must act and implement efficiencies at the Port of Vancouver before we have a disaster on our coast.”