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Vancouver Islanders skeptical as new Code of Conduct implemented for ships anchorages

Cowichan Bay group calls Vancouver Fraser Port Authority shift a band-aid initiative
New code of conduct implemented on commercial ships anchoring off Cowichan’s coast. (Citizen file photo)

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s new code of conduct for ships anchoring at the port and other locations, including the Southern Gulf Islands and off Cowichan’s coast, was implemented on Feb. 15.

A press release from the VFPA said the code of conduct is intended to help mitigate the impacts of ships at anchor on the environment and neighbouring communities, including from noise and light.

But at least one local community group is skeptical that the code of conduct will deal with the many concerns around cargo ships anchoring in local waters waiting their turn to dock at the Port of Vancouver.


VFPA’a statement said the code of conduct, which it said was developed using feedback from Indigenous groups, communities, local government and industry stakeholders, will be part of its Port Information Guide and will apply to all ships anchored at the Port of Vancouver.

It will be strongly recommended for ships calling at anchorages managed under the Interim Protocol, which are temporary measures put in place by Transport Canada in 2018 to help reduce the impacts of large vessels at anchor outside B.C.’s ports.

Moving forward, when a ship’s agent contacts the port authority to request an anchorage assignment, the VFPA will be asking the ship’s captain to agree to follow the practices and procedures outlined in the anchorage code of conduct, the statement said.

“This anchorage code of conduct has been created as part of our Active Vessel Traffic Management Program, which we are delivering to help better manage the movement of commercial ships visiting the Port of Vancouver and to reduce impacts to local communities as Canadian trade grows,” the statement said.

“Under the program, we are looking at ways to implement stricter noise and light requirements and environmental best practices for ships anchored near the Southern Gulf Islands, as well as to improve the efficiency of commercial ship traffic, optimize the use and assignment of anchorages, and reduce the time ships spend at anchor.”


Shri Madiwal, director of marine operations and harbour master at the VFPA, said the feedback received from the community and stakeholder groups helped the port authority create a robust code of conduct that balances the priorities identified by the community and environmental protections with the port’s limited role managing anchorages outside its jurisdiction.

“We understand the Southern Gulf Islands are ecologically sensitive and have heard the community’s calls for stronger measures to reduce social and environmental effects of anchorages,” Madiwal said.

“At the same time, it is important to note that anchorages play a key role in safe and reliable supply chains and the need for them at the Port of Vancouver and near the Southern Gulf Islands will remain as Canada’s trade continues to grow.”

There are 33 commercial vessel anchorages located throughout the Southern Gulf Islands, including six in operation in Cowichan Bay and six near Ladysmith and Saltair harbours.

Repeated calls have been made by local governments, MPs, community groups and First Nations about protecting clam beds, prawns, oysters and endangered species from the environmental impact of the anchored shipping vessels.

As well as concerns about the impacts to the marine environment of parking these large ships in the area, there are also concerns about the noise and light pollution they create.


Peter Holmes, president of the Cowichan Bay Ship Watch Society, said the new code of conduct is a band-aid extension of the Interim Protocol and will do nothing to quell community concerns or complaints around the anchorages.

“Ships’ generators cannot be turned down to mitigate the noise impact in a rural area where there is no ambient sound except for birds and wind,” he said.

“Through a well managed arrival scheduling system, VFPA’s stated ongoing requirement for these anchorages (in the Southern Gulf Islands) would be unnecessary and can be eliminated.”

Holmes said the society is hoping that their calls to eliminate the local anchorages will be better heard by those attending Transport Canada’s 2023 Ocean Protection Plan Dialogue Forum, which will include members from a number of ocean-related industries and senior levels of government, that is taking place in Vancouver on Feb. 22-23.

This year’s forum will focus on new and continuing initiatives under the renewed Oceans Protection Plan, including the cumulative effects of marine shipping.

Holmes said the society had attended a number of the Ocean Protection Plan’s meetings in the past and its position on anchorages had been well received.

“We believe that the whole process (around the anchorages) is a slow boat to China, but we will have success in the end,” he said.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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