Anchorages Working Group formed by shipping industry

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 28 2017

The Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia has assembled a working group of members to create a framework for managing and monitoring all anchorages.

In his latest letter out to the COS membership, Robert Lewis-Manning, President of the Chamber of Shipping, states, “Having faced significant external stakeholder resistance to the establishment of additional anchorages in the vicinity of Gabriola Island, there was a real risk in late 2016 of the Minister of Transport decreeing a moratorium on the establishment of additional anchorages.”

He outlined in his letter that the formation of the working group is essential “to earning the trust of government and external stakeholders such that existing anchorages can continue to be used and a process and authority can be developed to establish additional ones in the future.”

Lewis-Manning spoke to the Sounder this past week, saying the COS is taking a “deep dive, looking statistically what’s been happening with the anchorages.

“There has been a lot of noise, but not a lot of data.”

According to Lewis-Manning. the working group (made up only of COS members) is going to be looking at what is happening with all the anchorages in southern BC to see if there are trends, which would then allow the COS to look for ways to improve efficiencies.

“What we’re seeing now is there are inefficiencies, largely jurisdictional, as anchorages are not managed holistically in BC.”

The group will be looking at who is anchoring, which anchorages are being used, when those sites are used, and for how long they are being used.

Lewis-Manning said they will also be including data on which commodities are using which anchorages.

“We’re trying to map that, so that we have an accurate reflection of how that’s changed over time.

“We have the full intention of sharing this externally when we’ve got it done.”

There has not yet been an inclusion of the Islands Trust (the local government present throughout the southern Gulf Islands), but Lewis-Manning said the group has been involving the federal Transport Minister and Deputy Minister to keep them informed.

Lewis-Manning said the group is trying to get a better understanding of “what it all looks like, so we’re working with the same set of assumptions.

“I spoke at the Islands Trust Annual Meeting and I got a lot of vocal feedback. I can’t ignore that.”

Part of the data collection is also how it is viewed.

Instead of looking at how many vessels are using the anchorages, the group is now looking at how many “at anchor” days there are.

(If a vessel is at a site for 10 days that has the same value as five vessels being in the same spot for two days each.)

Lewis-Manning said the initial look has shown a shift as to where vessels anchor - one site seeing an increase has been the Port of Nanaimo proper.

Whether the Port of Vancouver telling ships to head for the Gulf Islands and Nanaimo, Lewis-Manning said, “I wouldn’t say Vancouver tells people to go the Gulf Islands - that’s an exaggeration. 

“It’s less organized than that.”

Lewis-Manning said that even in the past couple of years, since the Gabriola anchorages first came on the public radar, the industry has been making use of anchorages on Constance Bank, which traditionally has only been used by vessels needing to pass an inspection before making port.

“That has taken the strain off the Gulf Island anchorages.”

The working group, he says, will be looking at “what the best fit model is that avoids impacting local communities.

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety, especially on Gabriola. I’m more positive people are trying to look at it on a larger scale. We need to get to a much more holistic managed place where hopefully some of this can be avoided.”

Chris Straw, Vice-President of Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages (GAFA) said, “GAFA supports any efforts to improve efficiencies inside the Port of Vancouver that would reduce or eliminate the need for anchorages throughout the Gulf Islands. But we have serious concerns about the lack of transparency in this whole process. If the federal government is serious about involving coastal communities, they need to be listening to voices other than the Chamber of Shipping whose mandate is to save the shipping industry money and promote the expansion of shipping throughout the Salish Sea. Our fear is that they will only consult with Gabriolans and other concerned parties once the deal between government and the shipping industry is done. By then it will be too late.”

GAFA will be discussing this and other issues at a public meeting on March 18 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Gabriola Community Hall. There will also be a screening of the documentary Freightened, The Real Price of Shipping.

Natasha Gauthier, Senior Media Relations Advisor with Transport Canada, provided a statement saying, “Transport Canada is aware of the concerns raised by some around proposed anchorages off Gabriola Island. As a trading nation, Canada needs an efficient and safe marine transportation system. 

“This includes anchorages for ships. The Pacific Pilotage Authority has undertaken a study and consultation on this issue, in accordance with its mandate.

“Under Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), the government will look at developing a process to identify and manage new anchorages outside Canada Port Authorities’ and public ports’ jurisdictions. This process supports the OPP objective of protecting the environment while ensuring economic growth and trade.”