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Salish Sea anchored freighter noise mitigations permanent, ships will stay

Pilot program measures off southern Gulf Islands and eastern Vancouver Island to be adopted
A pilot program to help deal with noise from anchored cargo ships off local shores is now permanent

A pilot program intended to help deal with noise issues from cargo ships anchored off the southern Gulf Islands and eastern Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley, will become permanent.

In the latest newsletter from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which operates the Port of Vancouver, the VFPA said the arrival and departure window for ships anchoring off many of the Cowichan Valley’s seaside communities, and others along the coast, is now a permanent standard for ship operators dealing with the Port of Vancouver.

This decision follows a 12-month pilot period during which more than 50 ship operators adjusted their arrival and departure times to and from the Port of Vancouver’s anchorages in this area, when possible, to avoid rolling out their anchors in the area at night.

The newsletter said the pilot program helped reduce the number of night-time arrivals and departures at the southern Gulf Islands and east Vancouver Island anchorages, and associated noise complaints declined by more than 50 per cent since it was initiated in July, 2023.

“Now that it’s permanent, the arrival and departure window will continue to mitigate noise disruptions from anchored ships while ensuring ship movements to and from anchorages in the area remain fluid,” the VFPA said.

There are 33 commercial vessel anchorages located throughout the southern Gulf Islands and local areas, including six in operation in Cowichan Bay and six near Ladysmith and Saltair harbours.

Repeated calls have been made by local governments, MPs, community groups and First Nations about protecting clam beds, prawns, oysters and endangered species from the environmental impact of the anchored vessels.

As well as the environmental concerns, issues have also been raised over the years about the noise and light pollution the anchored vessels create.

It’s become a longstanding issue particularly for residents of Saltair, Chemainus, Thetis and Penelakut Islands, other Gulf Islands, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Nanaimo.

But the VFPA said it has no intention of abolishing the anchorages, as some have suggested, because they are integral to port operations, including the fact that they provide important surge capacity during peak demand or supply-chain disruptions.

The newsletter said many operational reasons drive the need for ships to anchor in and around the Port of Vancouver.

These include berth and cargo availability, mandatory inspections, ship-clearance processes, maintenance and repairs, and weather-related constraints preventing some cargoes from being loaded when it rains.

“External factors, including seasonability, geopolitical and labour conflicts, economic conditions and extreme weather events putting pressure on the supply chains, also impact traffic at designated anchorages in the south coast region,” the VFPA said.

“For these reasons, the use of and the need for anchorages will remain to support the safe and efficient movement of Canadian trade through the Port of Vancouver.”

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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