Cargo ship loses control of anchor off Gabriola’s Tinson Point

Chris Straw

Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages

Wednesday, January 29 2020

Residents on the North East side of Gabriola Island were treated to a large unexpected guest in their neighbourhood last week. On Thursday the Bulk Cargo ship Serena R experienced a malfunction with one of its mechanisms used to raise and lower anchors. This led to one the main anchors dropping approximately 55 metres into the water, while the vessel was en route from Port of Nanaimo to a terminal in the Port of Vancouver. At the time the vessel was in waters much deeper than 55 metres but it was decided that dragging the anchor all the way to Port of Vancouver, or heading back to Port of Nanaimo would not be safe.

The Serena R, and Tinson Point as seen from the Malaspina Galleries. Photo courtesy Chris Straw, GAFA

GPS tracking data appears to show the Serena R turned back towards the Port of Nanaimo and then dropped its other functioning anchor approximately 1km north of Tinson Point on Gabriola Island, in a location directly on the path of the Duke Point/Tswassen Ferry route. According to a representative of the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the ship remained at anchor at this location while the crew worked to secure the stray anchor and hoist it back into the ship. Early Sunday afternoon the ship was seen steaming to the Port of Vancouver for examination by Transport Canada and to await further repairs.

 For Gabriolans, concerned about a proposal to establish permanent freighter anchorage locations along the NE shore of the island, the event served as a bit of a heads up and a reminder that accidents and malfunctions can and do happen in large scale commercial shipping.

As the illustration shows, the position of the Serena R during its temporary stay off Gabriola, was approximately twice as far from shore as the anchorages proposed off Gabriola’s NE shore would be. It is also worth noting that this vessel, at approximately 200 metres in length, is 100 metres shorter than the Capesize vessels that the proposed new anchorages would accommodate.

The proposal for new Gabriola Anchorages has been on hold since 2017 when Transport Canada announced a National Anchorage Initiative to study the issue of commercial ships anchoring outside of federally regulated ports and make recommendations for how they are to be managed as well as to clarify the process for establishing new ones.

There has been very little information released about the initiative since early 2019. Members of Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society and representatives of other Southern Gulf Island Communities are hoping to get some answers about the status of Transport Canada review at a wide ranging meeting about the Federal Government’s Oceans Protection Plan, in Vancouver tomorrow, January 30.

For more information on the freighter anchorages initiative visit. www.nofreighteranchorages.ca