Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Anchorages

Transport Canada has put in place temporary measures to reduce the impacts of large vessels at anchor outside port authorities in southern British Columbia.

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This protocol has been developed by Transport Canada in collaboration with the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and the Port of Nanaimo (working group members). It also takes into account comments provided by coastal communities about the impact of increased use of anchorages in their surrounding waters.

The protocol, is designed to reduce some of the impacts of large vessels at anchor. Although voluntary, the protocol's procedures and guidelines are fully supported by representatives of the marine community.

About the interim protocol

This protocol was introduced on February 8, 2018, and applies to cargo vessels anchoring in the area of the Southern Gulf Islands, collectively referred to as the South Coast of B.C.

The area extends from Race Rocks, Haro Strait, and Boundary Pass in the south to Gabriola Island in the north, and is bounded to the east and west by the Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island.

The 6 anchorages at the Nanaimo Port, the 5 at Esquimalt (Royal Roads), and the Constance Bank anchorage, are not part of this protocol, so there is no change to existing procedures for requesting an anchorage at these locations.

Nothing in these practices and procedures relieves the Master of the vessel from his obligations for safety, or from following the requirements under any applicable international or Canadian statutes, regulations and guidelines.

Transport Canada, in collaboration with working group members will continue to review activities regularly. Findings, along with on-going engagement with partners and stakeholders, will inform the longer-term strategy for the management of anchorages.

Use of South Coast of B.C. anchorages will be tracked using data (for example, type of vessel, days at anchor) provided by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the Nanaimo Port Authority, and the Pacific Pilotage Authority.

Background and purpose

Canada has the world's longest coastline, and our water is one of our most important resources. Canadians across the country rely on marine transportation to go about their everyday life or to deliver products to market in a safe and responsible way.

That is why the Government of Canada, under the Oceans Protection Plan is developing a national approach to anchorages management. This work will include:

  • engaging with governments, marine industry, technical experts, Indigenous groups, community organizations and stakeholders;
  • researching and analyzing the environmental, economic, social, safety and security impacts of anchorages;
  • examining the management of anchorages outside of public ports; and
  • creating a manual with best practices for ships at anchor.

As this work proceeds, and as an interim measure to ensure that no one anchorage is overused, Transport Canada has asked the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to manage the assignment of anchorage locations along the south coast of B.C. This a change from existing practice, where anchorages are selected by Masters of vessels in consultation with a coast pilot, without considering equitable rotation through suitable locations.

Ships destined for the ports of Nanaimo or Vancouver that require an anchorage location in the south coast waters will follow the guidelines detailed in the following section of this protocol.

Obtaining an anchorage in southern B.C.

All vessels requesting an assignment to an anchorage must provide the following information to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority through their Pacific Gateway Portal. (Note: this is the same information requested by ports.)

  • vessel name
  • Length Over All (LOA) – vessel length overall
  • expected duration (estimated from arrival and departure times)
  • expected cargo type
  • maximum draught
  • reason for anchorage (to be entered under remarks)

Assignment to an anchorage is based on the vessel agreeing to the guidelines in this protocol.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority will assign anchorages as equitably as possible, subject to individual anchorage size restrictions, using a computerized queuing system that takes into account anchorage usage over the previous 30 days. The objective is to balance the usage, so that no single anchorage is in constant use and ensuring an equitable rotation of use through all suitable anchorages.

Plumper Sound Anchorage X is designated for emergency use only and will not be included in the rotation of assignments.

Effective December 1, 2018, requests for assignment to Plumper Sound Anchorage D, which is identified as a Material Offloading Anchorage (MOA) are part of this protocol. This site will only be used for transloading.

Responsibilities of ships at anchor

Vessels shall comply with all international and Canadian statutes, obligations, and guidelines relating to safety, the environment, fisheries, and the common practice of good seamanship.

Watchkeeping arrangements

While at anchor, a continuous navigation watch is to be maintained in accordance with chapter VIII, section A-VIII/2, part 4-1, paragraph 51 of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers code.

Noise and lights

All vessels, while at anchor, should minimize noise levels and light usage in consideration of local residents.


  • Generator usage should be reduced to the minimum required generator(s) to operate essential services and systems
  • External doors and hatches to machinery spaces must be kept closed as often as possible
  • Use of power tools and chipping hammers must be kept to a minimum and is not permitted on deck on weekends, or between 1900 and 0700 hours on weekdays


  • While the vessel is to be lit in compliance with the Collision Regulations, deck lights must be kept to a minimum
  • Lighting used to illuminate a vessel's decks must be aimed downward, and not outward or toward the shore


  • Fishing may be undertaken only by ship's crew who hold a valid British Columbia tidal water sports fishing license

Contact us

Comments on the content of this document can be made at any time to Transport Canada, Oceans Protection Plan, by emailing This will help inform the review of anchorages that is part of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan.

  • For noise and light concerns related to vessels using Southern B.C. anchorages, contact the VFPA Operations Center and provide details by completing the online form.
  • Suspected marine pollution should be reported to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Any observations about apparent illegal fishing can be reported to Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Observe, Record, Report (ORR) at 1-800-465-4336.

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