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Commercial vessels anchoring around BC’s Southern Gulf Islands to avoid nighttime arrivals or departures


Vancouver – Starting July 1, commercial ship operators anchoring around the Southern Gulf Islands will be asked to avoid nighttime arrivals or departures, as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and its industry partners work together to reduce the effects of Canada’s growing trade on coastal communities, the Port of Vancouver announced.

Under the port authority’s new arrival and departure window for ships anchoring around the Southern Gulf Islands, ship operators will be asked to prioritize arriving at or departing from anchorages off the Southern Gulf Islands between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., to help reduce noise disruptions from ships lowering their anchors in the area at night.

The measure will be trialed for six months, giving the port authority, industry, and Indigenous and local communities time to assess its effectiveness, both operationally and on improving the quality of life of coastal communities—ahead of any decision to make it permanent. Based on 2022 numbers, it is estimated that more than 75 nighttime ship arrivals and departures at Southern Gulf Islands anchorages will be avoided over the course of the trial period.  

 Outside of the Port of Vancouver, ships are free to anchor in an appropriate location for a reasonable period of time per the common law right of navigation, including around the Southern Gulf Islands. Ships have anchored at specific locations in and around the Southern Gulf Islands for decades as these anchorages are in deep water and can accommodate larger ships.

Through an interim protocol introduced by Transport Canada in 2018, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority—the federal agency mandated with enabling Canadian trade through the Port of Vancouver— manages the assignment of 33 anchorages around the Southern Gulf Islands to ensure a balanced use of these sites to help reduce effects of commercial ships at anchor.  

This arrival and departure window for ships anchoring around the Southern Gulf Islands, which includes several exceptions such as when a ship needs to leave its anchorage to berth at a terminal for cargo loading or requires safe refuge during inclement weather, is part of broader collaborative efforts to reduce the impacts of Canada’s growing trade through the region and follows the recent introduction of a Canadian-first anchorage code of conduct. 

Both measures were developed in response to community feedback and as part of the Active Vessel Traffic Management Program, which the port authority is undertaking to more efficiently manage commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver, enhance ship safety and environmental protection, and reduce the impact of trade activity on local communities.

The port authority and industry will continue to collaborate through the Active Vessel Traffic Management Program on further ways to reduce the use of Southern Gulf Islands anchorages, including: 

  • The anchorage code of conduct, implemented by the port authority and included in its Port Information Guide, which outlines the practices ship operators anchoring at the Port of Vancouver and around the Southern Gulf Islands should follow to minimize their impact on coastal communities and the environment 
  • A port authority feasibility study into using an alternative mooring system for waiting ships to increase anchorage capacity at the Port of Vancouver  
  • Designing a centralized scheduling system with digital partner DHI SeaPort OPX to better sequence commercial ship traffic calling at the Port of Vancouver and facilitate faster turnaround of ships.

(Photo from VFPA of ships at anchor in Southern Gulf Islands)