Ship anchorages proposed off Gabriola’s shores

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 7 2015

The Pacific Pilotage Authority is proposing five anchorages for coal ships be approved off Gabriola’s north-east side for large vessels bound for Port Vancouver and other locations.

The site for the northern-most anchorage is due east of the homes located at the north end of The Strand/south end of Sandwell Provincial Park.

The sites of the other four anchorages are between the end of Whalebone Drive and Eva Road just northwest of Dragons’ Lodge.

Image courtesy Pacific Pilotage Authority. 

After a letter (see here) was sent in to the Sounder this past week expressing concerns about the proposed anchorages, Transport Canada media representatives were contacted, and they asked Kevin Obermeyer, CEO for the Pacific Pilotage Authority  (PPA) to explain the proposal.

 The Pacific Pilotage Authority is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to provide a safe and efficient marine pilotage service on the west coast of Canada. 

It provides the marine pilots to the ships which navigate the waters up and down BC’s coast, in particular Port Vancouver.

Obermeyer said, “As part of this we need to work with everyone to ensure that we have a sufficient number of anchorages available to allow for vessels that arrive on our coast to load/discharge but find on arrival that the berth they are going to is unavailable.”

According to Obermeyer, over the past several years there has been an increase in the number of vessels anchoring.

As a result of this the PPA received complaints from residents that live in very close proximity to some of the Gulf Island designated anchorages who had never previously had ships anchored in their areas, even though those locations were designated anchorages.

The PPA met with concerned residents in the Cowichan Bay area and participated in a subsequent meeting on Pender Island, with a follow up meeting in Cowichan where the PPA, Transport Canada and the Chamber of Shipping again met with the local residents.

With the increase in vessel size and anchorage concerns, the PPA, BC Coast Pilots Ltd and the Chamber of Shipping of BC undertook a review of the present anchorages in the southern Gulf Islands.

The result of this review was the closure of a number of anchorages in the Gulf Islands area and a proposal to add five anchorages off Gabriola Island to address the lack of anchorages for the larger coal ships. 

Obermeyer said, “the proposed Gabriola anchorages are a lot further away from the coastline than those in the southern Gulf Islands and in what appears to be a good holding ground.

“Transport Canada was consulted and a risk assessment conducted with the pilots and industry in attendance.”

Obermeyer was not able to provide the distance from shore which would be in place for the proposed anchorages off Gabriola.

The sites are designated for ships up to 260m (for the northernmost site) and 300m for the other four.

Obermeyer was not able to provide how far the proposed sites are from the shoreline of Gabriola.

“Whenever you have a designated deep sea anchorage you need to indicate the maximum allowable vessel size. The issue in the southern Gulf Islands such as Cowichan Bay was the designated anchorages were not really designed for Cape size (large coal ships) vessels, which meant vessels were within 150m to the beach.”

A meeting with Transport Canada, the pilots and industry is scheduled to take place this coming week where the next steps will be addressed. 

Obermeyer said, “at this point it is important to note that this is a proposal and there will need to be additional steps undertaken prior to implementation.”