Vancouver Island residents will have the opportunity to learn about and provide input into the Vancouver Port Authority’s draft plan to help deal with issues related to the controversial anchoring of freighters in the area.
The VPA will hold an open house in Ladysmith this week on the port’s draft plan for its active vessel traffic management Program.
“Local communities will have an important opportunity to help shape how commercial ship traffic and anchorages are managed,” noted a press release from the VPA. “As the federal agency mandated with enabling trade through the Port of Vancouver, the port authority manages ship traffic within the Port of Vancouver and where these ships can anchor while waiting to access a port terminal.”
The release noted that trade through the Port of Vancouver and region is growing, and the management program is intended to better manage the movement of commercial ships visiting the port, and reduce impacts to local communities.
“One element of the program we have heard particular community interest in is an anchorage code of conduct for commercial ships around the southern Gulf Islands,” the VPA said.
“The open houses will provide the opportunity to learn more about, and provide feedback on, a draft anchorage code of conduct, as well as our proposed approach to complaint resolution regarding anchorage usage. The drop-in style open houses will also be an opportunity to speak with experts from the port authority and other organizations involved in ship traffic and anchorage management,” the release noted.
The open house will be held Thursday, Nov. 17, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Ladysmith’s Diamond Community Hall, 4962 Christie Rd.
There are 33 commercial vessel anchorages located throughout the southern Gulf Islands, including six near Ladysmith and Saltair harbours.
Repeated calls have been made by local governments, 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.
Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, reintroduced his legislation from the previous parliament on Nov. 7 to amend the Canada Shipping Act to prohibit the anchoring of freighter vessels using coastal waters along the southern Strait of Georgia. The bill is widely supported among local stakeholders, including First Nations, local governments, and community activist groups, and is seconded by Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Lisa Marie Barron.
MacGregor said the waters in the southern Strait of Georgia have been recognized as worth protecting by the federal government as a part of its process in establishing a National Marine Conservation Area.
“Regretfully, coastal residents, local First Nations, and conservation groups continue to plead with Transport Canada and the VPA to find solutions to this problem. The federal government has been dragging its heels on this issue, and Vancouver Island coastal communities deserve to have their voices heard in Ottawa,” MacGregor said.
The Cowichan Bay Ship Watch Society has also taken issue with the VPA’s plans for the anchored vessels, and the fact that there was so little notice of the open houses.
Society president Peter Holmes is also asking if there has been significant consultation with coastal communities on the proposed plan, and wonders about plans to address concerns around the local marine habitat and community health and welfare?
“How will a code of conduct change the status quo of complaints from noise that can not be mitigated and how will it prevent toxic, unmonitored illegal industrial activities that cannot be monitored or enforced?” he asked. “Potential disasters from anchor losses, dragging and ship collisions cannot be prevented in these waters. Where is the environmental research into the contamination coming from ship discharges and run off to sensitive marine areas?”
Holmes said there were some discussions on putting anchorages in less populated areas to reduce the stresses to communities, and he wants to know what became of those talks.
“These ships do not belong here,” he said. “They negatively affect communities and are a very real risk to contaminating vital, rich, marine life in low-flush bays and estuaries with discharges and industrial activity.”