Share and view ideas: Managing anchorages in the Salish Sea

Current Status: CLOSED

Open on February 22, 2023 and will close on May 14, 2023

An anchorage is a good place to anchor a vessel. Transport Canada is considering giving the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority more authority to manage commercial anchorages in the Salish Sea.

The issue

Port authorities assign and manage anchorages within their jurisdiction. Outside of port boundaries, a vessel can anchor temporarily and for a reasonable period of time in any suitable location, unless not allowed by law or regulation.

For decades, mariners have used areas in the Salish Sea to anchor vessels while waiting to access the Port of Vancouver. In recent years, anchoring in the Southern Gulf Islands has increased overall, and at a faster rate than cargo volumes at the Port of Vancouver.

While anchoring is a normal and important part of safe and efficient marine operations, it can have negative social and environmental impacts, which can be reduced or limited by setting rules. Since the anchorage sites in the Southern Gulf Islands fall outside the Port of Vancouver’s boundaries, the port can’t set and enforce rules for the area.

Actions to date

To help address the impacts of increased use of these anchorage sites, Transport Canada launched the Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern British Columbia Anchorages in 2018. This includes voluntary guidelines on minimizing light and noise. As part of the protocol, we asked the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to manage anchorage assignments so all sites are more equally used.

Since the protocol came into effect, we’ve received feedback from Indigenous communities, stakeholders, and community groups. Both local and regional parties have different opinions on anchorages, which ranged from getting rid of them completely to supporting more anchorage locations on the south coast of British Columbia. While the protocol has helped more fairly distribute vessels among the anchorage sites, we have a chance to move beyond voluntary rules to changing how anchorages in the area are managed as a whole.

This is a complex issue, and we’ve been involved in community and industry sessions as the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority develops an Active Vessel Traffic Management system. We’re also speaking with local Indigenous communities and will continue these discussions on a nation-to-nation basis.

What we’re proposing

We’re considering giving the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority permission to manage commercial anchorages in the Salish Sea. This would address calls for jurisdictional clarity and would enable mandatory and enforceable rules in the area.

By adding these commercial anchorage sites to the Port of Vancouver’s jurisdiction, the Port would be able to apply authorities under the Canada Marine Act to the geographic area and would be enabled to:

  • manage Salish Sea and Burrard Inlet anchorages in a systematic and efficient way and prioritize sites closer to the berths and terminals;
  • make the port’s new Code of Conduct (PDF, 276 KB) mandatory and enforceable, including restrictions on light, noise, and overside discharges; and
  • assign and manage anchorage sites, including arrival and departure rules, limits to length of stay, type of work and activity, and collect fees.

To date, the port has engaged with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and industry on a code of conduct, complaints process, information sharing, and the Active Vessel Traffic Management system to improve port efficiency. They are also actively looking for ways to improve vessel monitoring for the region.

We will continue to support this work and the effectiveness of the port’s Active Vessel Traffic Management system to make sure that the port continues to work with Indigenous communities for better managing anchorages.

Transport Canada expects that continued digitization of the gateway and more active vessel traffic management would reduce pressure on anchorage sites in the Southern Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island area, as vessels and cargo would be better situated for just-in-time arrivals.

How to participate

To participate, please email feedback and questions on the changes we’ve proposed to:

Key questions

  • What do you think about giving the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority permission to manage existing anchorage sites?
  • Are there other considerations that should be taken in adding the existing Southern Gulf Island anchorage sites to the port’s jurisdiction?
  • How could this change affect your community or local businesses?
  • What are the most important risks or benefits related to this change?

Contact us


Domestic Shipping
Marine Policy
Transport Canada
Tower C, Place de Ville
330 Sparks St
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0N8