Monthly report 1: Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Anchorages

The Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Anchorages came into effect on February 8, 2018.

This report is for February 8 to March 7, 2018. Note: future reports will be by calendar month. For example, report 2 will cover March 1 to 31, 2018.

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About the protocol

This protocol is a voluntary procedure for anchorages. Transport Canada developed it in collaboration with the:

It applies to all cargo vessels who request to anchor at one of 34 locations in the south coast of B.C.

A main objective of the protocol is to ensure ships do not overuse any single south coast anchorage. That is why we asked the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to manage how anchorage locations are assigned along the south coast. In the past, ship masters chose anchorages in consultation with a coast pilot. They were not required to rotate equally through suitable locations.

The protocol also introduces voluntary guidelines for noise and light emissions from ships between 1900 (7:00 pm) and 0700 (7:00 am).

This protocol will be in effect for an initial trial period of 6 months. During this time, we will review activities each month and publish results. Findings will inform the longer-term strategy for managing anchorages under the Oceans Protection Plan.

Highlights of the first month

  • Due to bad weather and unplanned factors, at the same time we implemented the protocol:
    • Western Canada had unprecedented delays in the arrival of commodities by train to the Port of Vancouver
    • Anchorages in the port and along the south coast were highly congested
    • In some cases, anchorages that hadn’t been occupied for years now held large freighters for several weeks
  • All ships that requested assignment to a south coast anchorage voluntarily accepted the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority direction
  • Preliminary data shows that, on average, anchorages in the south coast were used about 25 days each
  • The Vancouver Harbour Master:
    • received 2 to 10 calls and emails per day with complaints about noise and light from ships
    • assigned duty officers to follow up with the ship’s agent, though not all ships reduced their noise and/or lights
  • Transport Canada Oceans Protection Plan offices:
    • received 44 letters and phone calls with comments about the interim protocol and anchorages in general
    • acknowledged and responded to all comments
    • logged details of the concerns to include in the national anchorages review
  • As part of the National Aerial Surveillance Program, Transport Canada:
    • overflew the south coast anchorages area 21 times between February 8 and March 7
    • did not observe pollution from any of the anchored ships

Follow-up actions

Transport Canada

  • We are comparing Port of Vancouver raw hourly automatic identification system (AIS) data from ships at anchor against records of vessel transits from the Pacific Pilotage Authority
    • We will produce summary data on total days at anchor by south coast location, and will send out this information as soon as it is available
    • We will also include this information in future monthly reports
  • We will compile a list of all south coast anchorages
    • We will verify the following characteristics, as well as safety ratings, with the Pacific Pilotage Authority:
      • location
      • water depth
      • size of vessel the anchorage can accommodate
      • turning radius
      • others as needed
    • This information will be included in a future monthly report
  • We will follow up with the Canadian Coast Guard and Chamber of Shipping about past practices and agreements at Kulleet Bay and Plumper D anchorages
    • This will help us consider future changes to how anchorages operate at these locations

Harbour Master

  • To support requests for reduced noise and lights from ships, the VFPA Harbour Master will provide the Chamber of Shipping and/or the Shipping Federation of Canada with copies of notes sent to ship agents
    • The Chamber and Shipping Federation will assist with follow-up and education

Additional information

Anchoring outside ports

  • A number of citizens have written to Transport Canada to ask why the Government isn’t charging vessels to anchor outside ports
    • Many of these people feel imposing a fee would deter this from happening
    • We don’t currently have the legal authority to charge a fee, but will consider this idea for a future anchorages management framework
  • Whether or not we charge an anchorage fee, it already costs more for a ship to anchor outside a port (prior to being cleared for loading or waiting between arrivals of goods)
    • A vessel must pay pilotage fees for each transit as well as any harbour dues charged by a port
    • The best and least costly scenario for any bulk carrier is to go directly to an anchorage in a port

Delays to grain shipments


If you have comments about this protocol or monthly report, contact Transport Canada:

Telephone: 604-666-2387

Noise and light from ships

The purpose of the Vancouver Port Operations Centre telephone hotline is to report emergencies that require urgent action from duty staff. Therefore, it is no longer possible to accept complaints about noise and lights of vessels at anchor through this hotline.

Residents can send complaints by email to The Harbour Master will continue to follow up with individual ship agents.

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