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431-00043 (Transportation)

Petition to the Government of Canada


- Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) and Transport Canada have extended an "Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C. Anchorages." for an additional year, until August 8, 2019

- This Interim Protocol has included previously seldom used historical anchorages in the coastal waters of the Salish Sea, effectively establishing a long-term industrial parking lot for large international freighters, mostly bulk and coal carriers, with a destination of VFPA.

- Inefficiencies in supply-chain management and inadequate infrastructure have resulted in congestion in VFPA and delays in loading bulk carriers. The result is a dramatic increase of freighters sent to anchor to outside-of-Port anchorages for longer periods.

- Freighters anchored within the boundaries of VFPA are limited to a 7-day stay. Outside-of-Port anchorages do not have yet such a limit in time. Thus vessels planning to stay longer are automatically sent by VFPA and Transport Canada to park outside-of-Port in the area targeted by the Interim Protocol.

- BC Chamber of Shipping continues to encourage the practice of paying demurrage fees to anchored freighters. The longer a freighter is at anchor, the more demurrage fees they receive. This practice provides a strong incentive to ship owners to remain idling at anchor outside-of-Port.

- Since January 2016, the monthly average was 9 freighters sent to anchor in the outside-of-Port anchorages of the Salish Sea. As of July 1, 2018, at the end of the initial 6-month period of the Interim Protocol, the monthly average has risen to 23. This is an unacceptable increase.

- Many of the historical outside-of-Port anchorages have not been used since they were designated in the 1970s. No consultation, environmental, psychosocial impact studies, or risk assessments have been completed prior to dramatically increasing usage of these anchorages under the Interim Protocol.

- Despite numerous complaints from coastal communities, two petitions to the Parliament of Canada, and letters to Transport Canada Minister, no relief, accommodation, or compensation have been provided to coastal communities affected and no appropriate studies have been completed.

- Under the Interim Protocol, VFPA and Transport Canada have been engaged in a scheme to routinely abuse outside-of-Port anchorages to achieve record profits without any consideration of the socio-economic cost or risk to the environment, wildlife, and coastal communities.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the above and, once again, call upon the Government of Canada to suspend the use of outside-of-Port anchorages in the area targeted by the Interim Protocol until appropriate consultation, environmental studies, and risk assessments have been completed. In addition, we call upon the Government of Canada to require the development of a comprehensive strategy on the part of the VFPA, Transport Canada, and industry stakeholders, to resolve inefficiencies that result in and incentivize longer term anchoring of freighters.

Response by the Minister of Transport

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Marc Garneau

Transport Canada’s goal for managing anchorages is one where commercial shipping is conducted safely for the benefit of all Canadians, managed efficiently and to the extent possible, minimizes the impact to the marine environment and surrounding communities. In Canada, as in many other countries, the right to navigate including anchoring is part of the common law right of navigation. A ship is generally free to anchor temporarily and for a reasonable period of time in any appropriate location.  In addition, all vessels in Canadian waters, whether domestic or foreign, are bound by Conventions of the International Maritime Organization, to which Canada is a signatory and by applicable laws of Canada.  

The Government of Canada recognizes that transportation safety, environmental protection and economic development must be aligned to ensure sustainable outcomes for Canadians. As a trading nation, the marine transportation system is key to Canada’s continued economic and social well-being, and anchorages are an integral part of safe navigation.


Commercial shipping anchorages are selected based on the quality of their anchor-holding ground, shelter from high winds and proximity to shipping routes and port logistics. These criteria ensure the safety of vessels and their crew as well as the safety of other users of the water and surrounding environment.

As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, Transport Canada launched the Anchorages Initiative aimed at creating a framework for identification of new anchorage sites, examining the management of anchorages outside of public ports and articulating best practices for ships at anchor.


In 2018, an Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern British Columbia Anchorages was introduced in the Southern Gulf Islands. The Interim Protocol includes voluntary procedures to balance the use of anchorage locations outside of ports and to mitigate the disturbance to residents from light and noise from ships at anchor. Assignment to an anchorage in the Southern Gulf Islands is contingent on the vessel agreeing to the guidelines in the Interim Protocol as well as providing specific information to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) such as vessel length, expected duration of stay and reason for anchorage. The Port Authority then assigns 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, ensuring an equitable rotation of use through all suitable anchorages.


It is important to note that the Port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada and third largest in North America. Since 2014, the Port has seen an increase in congestion and utilization of anchorages due to the growth of Canada’s Asia-Pacific gateway and record levels of Canadian natural resources export volumes and large commercial deep-sea vessels. In 2018, the VFPA handled 43% of all tonnage and 51% of all containers passing through Canada Port Authorities. Given the importance of this gateway, there are no plans to eliminate anchorages. 


The Government's long-term strategy is aimed at improving the management of anchorages outside of public ports with a view to ensuring the long-term efficiency and reliability of the supply chain, and mitigating environmental and social impacts as much as possible.


As part of this work, consideration is being given to understanding the safety, environmental and social implications of anchorage activities. Transport Canada therefore continues to engage with a range of key stakeholders, including port and industry players as well as Indigenous and coastal communities, to define and gather feedback on the key challenges they perceive. In addition, the department is examining legal, operational and commercial considerations that have bearing on anchorage practices and management.


This work, along with the lessons derived from the Interim Protocol, will inform potential new measures pertaining to site identification, anchorage use and mitigation measures, as well as management practices more generally. Potential new measures will be advanced in due course, recognizing the complex nature of this issue.

Presented to the House of Commons
Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
January 29, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00043)
Government response tabled
March 13, 2020
Photo - Elizabeth May
Saanich—Gulf Islands
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia

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