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.

On this page


This protocol was 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. 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, to address the increased usage of anchorages, and ensure the balanced use of these sites across the region. The protocol applies to cargo vessels anchoring in the area of the Southern Gulf Islands, collectively referred to as the South Coast of B.C., and includes measures that vessels must follow in an effort to minimize disturbances, such as those caused by noise and light.

The protocol 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 six anchorages at the Nanaimo Port, the five 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.

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. This includes anchorages in and near Canada’s busy ports.

The right to anchor a vessel is part of the common law right of navigation. A vessel is free to anchor temporarily and for a reasonable period of time in any appropriate location, unless specifically prohibited by statute or regulation.

Port Authorities assign and manage anchorages within their boundaries. However, when a port’s anchorages and terminals are full, vessels must anchor elsewhere until space becomes available. In some parts of Canada, the use of coastal anchorages has increased over the past decade owing to multiple factors, such as increased trade, supply-chain coordination challenges as well as operational impacts such as poor weather and other disruptions to port and transportation system activities.

That is why the Government of Canada, under the Oceans Protection Plan, is working with the marine industry, Indigenous groups, community organizations, and stakeholders to:

  • examine complex legal, operational and commercial considerations that apply to anchorage practices and management;
  • explore ways to reduce anchorage use and transits by commercial vessels as well as develop and adopt tools for gathering data and optimizing port operations; and
  • support active traffic management measures to promote gateway fluidity.

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

Related links