Cargo ships wait out backlog near Saltair and Chemainus

Delays at Port Metro Vancouver have caused a number of cargo ships to drop anchor off of Saltair and Chemainus.

A number of container ships dropped anchor off of Saltair and Chemainus last week to wait out a backlog at Port Metro Vancouver (PMV). Yoss Leclerc

A number of container ships dropped anchor off of Saltair and Chemainus last week to wait out a backlog at Port Metro Vancouver (PMV). Yoss Leclerc

A number of cargo ships dropped anchor off of Saltair and Chemainus last week to wait out a backlog at Port Metro Vancouver (PMV). Yoss Leclerc, harbourmaster and director of operations and security with PMV, said delays were due to “a combination of factors.”

PMV is the largest port in Canada, Leclerc said. In 2011, the port’s three Metro Vancouver locations were visited by more than 3,000 deep-sea vessels transporting 122 million tonnes of cargo. Payloads are loaded and unloaded 24 hours a day, seven days a week via PMV’s 28 terminals, Leclerc added, but factors such as weather and cargo availability occasionally lead to delays.

While ships wait for available berths, Leclerc said they drop anchor in Indian Arm, in English Bay and in the harbour.

“But from time to time,” Leclerc said, “some ships might use the [Vancouver Island] anchorages.”

Turnaround time for vessels depends on their size and the type of cargo they’re designed to carry, Leclerc said.

“Some vessels can be in and out in 24 hours,” he added, “while other vessels take two to two and a half days.”

Leclerc said port staff aims to have vessels loaded and unloaded “as fast as possible, in a safe and secure manner,” but catching up on delays will depend primarily on weather.