Anchorage proposal dates back to 2011 proposal from BC Chamber of Shipping

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 18 2015

A 2011 annual report from the BC Chamber of Shipping (BCCS) shows the anchorage proposal is something that has been considered for at least the last four years without discussion with Gabriola islanders.

Kevin Obermeyer from the Pacific Pilotage Authority who has been the ‘face’ and media representative for the anchorages proposed off Gabriola’s north-east shore.

The BCCS 2011 Annual Report states the proposal came forward from a joint Ship & Port Operations and Navigation and Pilotage working group which included representatives from the BC Coast Pilots, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, Nanaimo Port Authority and Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).

According to the report, even in 2011, the number of anchorages available in Port Vancouver was considered inadequate to cope with the vessels waiting for grain and coal consignments. This led to an increase in the usage of overflow (outer) anchorages within the gulf islands by ships waiting to load or unload.

The report states, “the increased use Cowichan Bay and Plumper Sound anchorages has created issues with island residents, as any amount of noise and light from the vessels is considered to be a disturbance to their idyllic communities. 

“In an effort to minimize the disruptions, the Chamber of Shipping has requested that vessels in these anchorages are advised to reduce noise and lights where possible.”

Later on in the 2011 report, BCCS notes, “Members are aware of the heavy pressure throughout the year on anchorage capacity in relation to vessels awaiting berth within PMV. As a consequence of this pressure, all outlying anchorages were in regular use which resulted in many complaints from residents who felt they were being unduly impacted by light and noise, not to mention disruption of their ocean views. Attempts were made to mitigate these impacts, however it became increasingly obvious that a long term solution was required.”

The BCCS working group developed the proposal which has now proposed the five anchorages off Gabriola Island, and a fee schedule that would entice vessels to consider using the Nanaimo anchorages instead of the outer anchorage which are available at no cost and administered by Transport Canada.

The recommendations from the working group were endorsed by all parties and are in the process of being implemented.

The Nanaimo Port Authority was nominated by members of BCCS to be the ones to sponsor the proposal for the five anchorages off Gabriola.

Asked for comment, representatives for the NPA said Transport Canada’s direction had been to have Kevin Obermeyer of the PPA be the sole spokesperson for the anchorage proposal.

BC Ferries were also asked for comment about the anchorages proposal, as ferries routinely travel along that side of Gabriola.

Deborah Marshal, BCF Executive Director of Public Affairs said, “We are aware of proposal and there is no impact to our operations.”

Ken Gurr, President of the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce, said currently, “We are confident that other islanders and groups with much more knowledge on this issue are tackling it right now.  We simply don’t have the time or capacity to deliberate and come up with detailed policy research and a statement at this time. Numerous Chamber members have independently involved themselves with this issue, joining in with the already organized groups, as they see appropriate.”

The timing of the issue during the Chamber’s busiest months of July and August has simply meant Board members and staff haven’t had a chance to discuss it. He added this is an issue that will be on the table at the September Chamber board meeting.

Along with proposing the five sites off Gabriola, the same report stated, “Members of the Committee have strongly stated the need to maintain the availability of the outer anchorages and that any attempt to establish marine parks or conservation areas that would prevent vessels from anchoring in these areas should be challenged vigorously.”

In 2011, Parks Canada was undergoing a consultation process for the formation of a National Marine Conservation Area. Part of that consultation had been to consider whether the Conservation Area would include all of the waters around Gabriola, or just the southern tip.

The 2012 map (the latest available) for the conservation area shows the potential NMCA including all of the Salish Sea within the southern Gulf Islands between the Canada/US border (with exceptions for large harbours like Cowichan Bay).

The NMCA stops at Dodd Narrows; False Narrows; and the tip of Silva Bay just south of Dragons’ Lodge.

Attempts were made through Parks Canada to speak to someone working on the long-term management plan for the NMCA, but all queries to the NMCA office in Vancouver were forwarded to the Gulf Islands National Park office in Sidney who were unable to speak to the issue.

Stephen Brown, President of the BCCS, has been emailed for comment on the issue but had not responded at press time.

Media representatives for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, contacted for comment on the potential impact of the anchorages on fishing and ecological impact in “The Grande”, have also not responded to queries since the original story in the Sounder on July 7.