The South Coast Ship Watch Alliance is calling on the Port of Vancouver to eliminate its 33 commercial vessel anchorages located throughout the southern Gulf Islands.
The controversial anchorages include six in operation in Cowichan Bay and six near Ladysmith and Saltair harbours that are used by cargo ships waiting their turns to dock at the busy Port of Vancouver.
In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan, Cheryl Ashlie, a spokeswoman for the SCSWA, an alliance of island community groups from the south coast, said Transport Canada is presently permitting not only the use, but also the drastic expansion of anchoring by bulk cargo and container vessels in the area.
“First Nations, citizens of coastal communities, community groups, the Islands Trust, and many elected representatives have all spoken in opposition to the anchorages, due to the negative impact they are having on this environmentally and biologically sensitive area,” Ashlie said.
“Yet, the Port of Vancouver and Transport Canada have not successfully addressed this issue in over a decade.The November floods in B.C. disrupted the railway system for two weeks, but caused months of marine traffic congestion with island anchorages reaching full capacity.”
Ashlie said extreme climate events are bringing new challenges, but are not an excuse for environmentally damaging shipping practices, for undermining national marine conservation efforts, disrespecting reconciliation with First Nations, and adding stress factors to public health in coastal communities.
“Slow economic recovery from COVID‐19 has caused global delays for container ships,” she said.
“While other port cities have adapted and found solutions to keep vessels away and protect their residents, the Port of Vancouver simply continues to direct ships into island waters. Addressing the root causes of the problem and phasing out of these anchorages are the only responsible solutions for a new active-vessel traffic management program that is presently being developed by the Port of Vancouver.”
In March, the Cowichan Valley Regional District decided it will invite a delegation from the POV to speak to the board, Island Trust and local First Nations about issues regarding the anchoring of freighters in the southern Gulf Islands.
The motion for the initiative was made after a letter to the district was received from the POV stating that it was developing the new vessel-traffic management program to manage traffic flow at the POV and in southern British Columbia waters.
Naomi Horsford, manager of municipal and stakeholder relations at the POV, said in the letter that the POV is seeking input from Indigenous groups, various levels of government, and community stakeholders in the new management system
“We are writing to advise the CVRD of this process as it will affect anchorage management in the southern Gulf Islands area, and to offer you an opportunity to meet with members of the port authority team in the coming months to learn more about the scope and opportunities for municipal participation,” she said.
Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone made the motion at the time to invite the delegation from the POV, stating that the anchoring of large freighters in the southern Gulf Islands has been a long-standing issue for many residents of the Cowichan Valley and the Gulf Islands for years.
He said that for a lot of residents in coastal communities in the Cowichan Valley, this is an ever-present concern, especially over the last few years as there have been more vessels parking in sensitive environmental areas of the southern Gulf Islands.