Understanding anchorages in Canada

An anchorage is a suitable area in which to anchor a vessel. The right to anchor a vessel is part of the common law right of navigation.

Vessels are free to anchor temporarily wherever it is safe.

The master of the vessel is responsible for:

  • selecting a safe anchorage
  • ensuring the vessel’s safety at all times

Within a port boundary and considering the above factors, it is Canada Port Authorities that direct vessels where to anchor, and for how long, within their jurisdictions.

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and its regulations govern vessels at anchor. Transport Canada enforces these regulations.

On this page

When vessels use anchorages

Anchoring time can vary depending on the reason for a vessel needing an anchorage. It could be for a few hours, several days or a few weeks. For example in the Gulf Islands across from the Port of Vancouver in British Columbia, a vessel’s average stay is 8.6 days.

Vessels use anchorages:

  • when waiting for clearance to enter a port
  • when waiting for berth or cargo availability
  • to maintain safety and security
  • due to inclement weather

Vessels use anchorages during maintenance, when:

  • preparing holds before taking on cargo
  • making repairs
  • making crew changes

Anchorages within port boundaries

Port Authorities choose an anchorage by taking into account many factors, such as:

  • enough distance between vessels
  • length and draft of a vessel
  • reason for needing an anchorage
  • quality of the anchor-holding ground
  • shelter from high winds
  • location of shipping routes
  • port logistics
  • the amount of anchoring cable available on a vessel
  • the depth of water
  • proximity of environmental dangers like sandbanks or rocks
  • tidal considerations like strength, direction, and rising and falling
  • proximity of landing places

Enforcing anchorages regulations

Non-Canadian vessels entering Canada are subject to international and Canadian rules.

Vessels that do not comply with these rules can be stopped and detained until the problems are fixed.

Countries share information with each other about high-risk vessels so that they can be closely inspected.

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 makes sure that rules for safety and protection of the environment are followed by granting authorities to:

  • make regulations that list violations and penalties
  • search, inspect, seize, detain and direct vessels
  • ensure compliance and issue notices of violation
  • enforce penalties, such as suspension, cancellation or refusal to renew Canadian maritime documents

Related links