Monthly report 7: Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Commercial Anchorages

From: Transport Canada

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

This report is for August 1 to 31, 2018.

Highlights for August

  • As in previous months, Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program had a busy month, and:
    • completed 11 coastal flights and 8 northern ones
    • performed 1,013 overflight ship inspections
    • observed no pollution from the commercial ships at anchor
  • A number of residents from coastal communities wrote to Transport Canada asking:
    • why some locations were used more often than others, and
    • why vessels were returning to the same spot when other sites were empty
  • This is because:
    • Each anchorage is rated for the maximum size of ship it can accommodate, which means larger ships can only anchor at larger locations (such as Cowichan Bay and Trincomali)
    • The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) uses an anchorage assignment system that considers the overall past use of the anchor grouping, not just the individual site
  • In response to multiple requests for information on this anchorage assignment system, Transport Canada and VFPA developed a short summary of the process
  • Please be aware: although VFPA has a 7-day limit on ships at anchor, vessels are not redirected to south coast anchorages unless there is an immediate operational requirement
    • Ships are sometimes at anchor for 1 or 2 weeks beyond the 7-day limit

Data review

  • Our officials have been reviewing data to identify factors that impact the demand for coastal anchorages
    • With the increased size of bulk carriers, we noted that some grain ships need to make several trips to a terminal before they are fully loaded, and must wait at anchor between arrivals of product
    • Also, since terminals work almost non-stop it isn’t possible for empty ships to remain beside the terminal while they wait to be loaded with their next shipment
  • In the third week of August, we experienced a spike in demand for all anchorage activity (in the ports and along the south coast)
    • Unfortunately, there was no single cause and we couldn’t have predicted the increase in demand
    • Transport Canada and the VFPA both received a higher number of inquiries than usual because of the traffic problems
  • The updated data source data set, which includes new information on annual usage from 2013, is available for download for registered organizational representatives

If you are not a subscriber but would like to receive this month’s data information, please contact us at

Changes to the protocol

Our working group considered a number of ideas and suggestions about the protocol.

We made the following changes:

  1. In response to comments, the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA) will advise pilots to direct ships to the furthest point away from the community within an anchoring area
    • Communities have written to Transport Canada and PPA saying that anchorages are too close to shore
    • We saw that all anchorages are safe for the identified maximum size of ship and that sometimes moving further away could increase the safety risk
    • However, anchoring away from communities will help to minimize noise and light from ships
  2. Based on a review by pilots, anchorages with a 225 Length Overall (LOA) can safely accommodate ships up to 230 m, a change in rating that will:
    • allow up to 15% more ships to be assigned to the current 225 LOA sites
    • reduce at the use of the longer Cowichan and Trincomali locations
  3. VFPA will ask agents of vessels redirected from the port to the south coast to try and improve their scheduling with pilots, so their ships don’t arrive in the Gulf Islands during nighttime silent hours

Time limits

We will not impose limits on the length of stay at individual south coast anchorages. Although a number of citizens have written to request this, when we analyzed the request, we realized this change wouldn’t decrease the number of days at anchor, but would increase the number of transits. This would also increase risk of damage to the environment. Also, since pilots are required for the area, it would add costs for the shipper.

We’ve presented the suggestion of limiting the lengths of stays of ships to our national anchorages team to consider as they develop a new national anchorages framework.

Oceans Protection Plan Dialogue Forum

Anchorages will be a topic of discussion at this fall’s Dialogue Forum. We will engage in discussions at a breakout session on anchorages. We look forward to seeing many of you there.

To register for the public Voyage of the Vessel presentation on October 22, please visit Eventbrite.


If you have comments or suggestions about anchorages, please:

Related links