Sound restrictions for anchored cargo ship Salish Sea permanent, ships remain

Sound restrictions for anchored cargo ship Salish Sea permanent, ships remain

Pilot program measures for the Southern Gulf Islands and Eastern Vancouver Island are adopted

A pilot program to address noise pollution from cargo ships anchored off the southern Gulf Islands and eastern Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley, is becoming permanent.

In the latest newsletter from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which manages the Port of Vancouver, the VFPA reported that the arrival and departure times for vessels anchoring at many coastal towns in the Cowichan Valley and other places along the coast are now a permanent standard for vessel operators doing business with the Port of Vancouver.

This decision follows a 12-month trial period during which more than 50 shipping companies adjusted their arrival and departure times to and from Port of Vancouver anchorages in this area where possible to avoid having to roll out their anchors in this area at night.

The newsletter states that the pilot program has helped reduce the number of nighttime arrivals and departures at anchorages in the southern Gulf Islands and eastern Vancouver Island, and associated noise complaints have decreased by more than 50 percent since its launch in July 2023.

“Now that it is permanent, the arrival and departure window will continue to reduce noise pollution from ships at anchor while ensuring that ship movements to and from anchorages in the area remain fluid,” the VFPA said.

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

Local governments, MPs, community groups and First Nations have repeatedly called for mussel beds, shrimp, oysters and endangered species to be protected from the environmental impacts of anchored ships.

In addition to environmental concerns, concerns have also arisen over the years about the noise and light pollution caused by ships at anchor.

It is a persistent problem, especially for residents of Saltair, Chemainus, Thetis and Penelakut islands, other Gulf Islands, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Nanaimo.

However, the VFPA has indicated that it does not plan to eliminate the anchorages, as some have suggested, as they are essential to port operations and provide important additional capacity during peak demand or supply chain disruptions.

The newsletter states that there are many operational reasons why ships need to anchor in and around Vancouver Harbour.

These include the availability of berths and cargo, mandatory inspections, vessel clearance procedures, maintenance and repairs, and weather-related restrictions that may prevent some cargo from being loaded when it is raining.

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

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