Re: Chamber of Shipping story in September 25 Sounder

Wednesday, October 2 2019

I’ve had several calls after last week’s Sounder interview with BC Chamber of Shipping President Robert Lewis Manning. They all wanted to know ‘‘does this mean we don’t have to worry about huge bulk freighters anchoring off Gabriola’s North East Shore?”

 Unfortunately the answer is no. 

When Mr. Lewis Manning says “there is no intent from the Chamber of Shipping to progress with the original proposal of five new anchorages off the northeast shore of Gabriola”, he is NOT saying there will be no attempt in the future to establish more anchorages off Gabriola. He stated quite clearly that “… there is absolutely an understanding there will be a requirement for a certain number of anchorages, properly managed, with regulation. That part has not gone away.”

Later on he states that the ultimate goal for shipping companies is “to shorten the distance to be closer to terminals in the Fraser and in Burrard Inlet.” Translation: There will always be a strong appetite to anchor ships off the coast of Gabriola. It’s so much closer to Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River than any of the other Gulf Islands Anchorages which require travel along the east coast of Vancouver Island. The big question is, will Transport Canada allow new anchorages off Gabriola when they complete their National Anchorages Review early next year? 

To be fair, the Chamber of Shipping is calling for some of the same things GAFA and other community groups are calling for in that Anchorage Review. As Lewis-Manning points out, shipping companies aren’t happy about the extra costs of idling for long periods in the Southern Gulf Islands. We all want Transport Canada to do many of the same things: Detailed research and data modelling to find the causes of supply chain delays and scheduling inefficiencies; analysis of commercial contracts; exploration of fees and time limits; better scheduling; anchoring infrastructure in the Port and the list goes on. 

But we’re far from being totally on the same page. The biggest difference between the industry and islanders is about whether they belong here at all. If the Chamber and the other parties get their way, parking huge cargo freighters in the Southern Gulf Islands will continue perhaps forever (along with all the environmental harm they bring) but with a few, mostly voluntary conditions. Transport Canada is already talking about a “manual of best practices” and a voluntary “code of conduct for ships”. 

Needless to say, groups like GAFA are pushing for much more. All the research we’ve done says that much of this overflow from the Port can and should be avoided. It’s a symptom of poor planning and bad economics. It can’t be justified on the basis of trade volumes. It’s basically what you get when you have no time limits and no fees for anchoring outside of the port and nobody minding the store. 

For too long, Transport Canada and the Vancouver Port Authority have turned a blind eye to community and First Nations concerns and allowed the situation to get out of control.

So here we are, while politicians scurry around the country trying to get elected, federal bureaucrats are (we hope) noodling away looking for answers. 

Our job is to make sure they pick the right ones.

For more information and to send a letter directly to federal ministers visit

~ Chris Straw, President, Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages