Monthly report 8: Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Commercial Anchorages

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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 September 1 to 31, 2018.

Highlights for September

Aerial surveillance

Transport Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program continued its overflight inspections of coastal areas and:

  • completed 17 flights along coastal B.C., and 3 in the Yukon and Northwest Territories
  • performed 1,036 ship inspections
  • observed no pollution from commercial ships at anchor

Public requests for action

We continue to get e-mails and letters from coastal residents asking us to:

  • stop the use of an anchorage
  • do more follow-up action when ships do not reduce their lights or noise

Please be advised that in Canada, as in many other countries of the world, ships have a common law right to anchor where it is safe. Unless a vessel is violating a Canadian law, Transport Canada does not have the authority to compel a ship to move.

However, we record all comments about specific sites (for example, the ship’s distance from shore and its potential ecological impact) and share them with the national Anchorages Initiative Project team.

If you would like more information on laws and regulations that apply to commercial ships in Canada, visit our Marine transportation web pages.

Data review

  • In response to many inquiries about how ships are assigned to anchorages, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VPFA) provided us with a short summary of their assignment process
  • Our data summary for September includes new graphs showing anchorage use by size of site, which demonstrates the balance among locations of a similar size
    • This is in response to letters from the public asking us why a ship is assigned to a specific location when another is available
    • When VFPA assigns a ship to a location, they try to match the size of ship to the anchorage, so that large sites which can only accommodate the largest vessels aren’t in constant use
  • We have also been reviewing data for all ships arriving to southern B.C., and we observed that:
    • Overall, the average days at anchor per stop in Vancouver from January 2013 to August 2018 was 3.5 days, whereas in the Southern Gulf Islands it was 9.2
      • Although 42% of vessels that visited the South Coast of B.C. spent time anchored as part of their voyages, only 4.5% of all vessels anchored in the Southern Gulf Islands
    • Vessels that anchor in Southern Gulf Islands tend to stay longer than those that anchor in Vancouver
    • Southern Gulf Island anchorages accounted for 16% of anchor time but only 7.1% of anchoring events
    • The average anchor days per stay in the Southern Gulf Islands is increasing
    • Coal and potash accounted for 50% of anchor days in the Southern Gulf Islands, and grain for about 35%
      • The situation in the Southern Gulf Islands is different than the overall anchorages days per voyage which has a higher number of anchorages days for grain accounts compared to coal and potash (grain accounts for about 49%, and coal and potash for 32%)
      • It’s not clear why coal and potash vessels in the Southern Gulf Islands account for more anchor time than grain
    • Vancouver and Southern Gulf Islands anchorages are similar when it comes to vessel arrival and departure times
      • Roughly 63% to 64% of ships arrive between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am
  • To receive a copy of the updated data set please email:

Changes to the protocol

  • As of December 1, we have included anchorage Plumper D, which is a designated material offloading (MOA) site, in the protocol guidelines
    • VFPA will make the assignments, which will be restricted to CSL transloading only
  • We will start talking with ships agents to explore other locations for gypsum loading

Next steps: national anchorages review

The national Anchorages Initiative has recently started doing a series of studies.

These studies will:

  • Compare and assess industry best practices for how to manage anchorages that fall outside public ports, but are similar to Canada’s major ports
  • Analyze past, current and future data to:
    • find trends in demand for freighters anchoring inside and outside public ports
    • determine the factors that drive demand
  • Identify best practices, technologies or incentives that can change how ships behave, so that they have less of an impact on communities and the environment


If you have comments or suggestions about anchorages, please:

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