Letter: Port Authority Code of Conduct will not address major concerns

Only 19 freighters in 2008 with limited length of stays, to 503 in 2022

Port Authority Code of Conduct will not address major concerns

Re: Robert Barron’s Jan. 11 article “Vancouver Fraser Port Authority says “Code of Conduct” for ships should deal with anchorage issues off Cowichan coast”.

The proposed “Code of Conduct” advanced by Mr. Alex Munro, senior communications advisor for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA), that is intended to “deal with anchorage issues”, is very misleading and is severely flawed. It does not address our most significant concerns such air pollution contributing to climate change and ocean acidification, anchor chain abrasion of seabed marine ecosystems, underwater noise that disrupts animal communication, excessive light pollution that disrupts undersea migration, water pollution, and risks of impact collisions with our Southern resident killer whales. Most worrisome is the potential for catastrophic incidents that result in industrial spills and oil contamination of our coastlines.

The federal government has the authority under the Canada Shipping Act, to enact regulations restricting the use of anchorages in these waters. Despite the significant negative impacts on the environment and coastal communities, the federal government has not exercised its jurisdiction to prevent the escalating industrialization of these waters, which has grown from only 19 freighters in 2008 with limited length of stays, to 503 in 2022 and vessels remaining for weeks on end.

Mr. Munro goes on to say, “We’ve been engaging with Indigenous and local communities on the AVTMP since early 2022 as we seek to understand community priorities and respond to local concerns.” But what Mr. Munro failed to mention was that the response from coastal communities has been overwhelming opposition to the presence of the anchorages.

The South Coast Ship Watch Alliance supports the shipping industry as important to the Canadian economy but the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority needs to address the core reasons for ship congestion to enable closure of these 33 anchorages. However, unless the Minister of Transport directs such solutions and deems this area worth protecting, the Port of Vancouver will happily continue to assign freighters to its “overflow parking lot” and we will see the devastation of a Canadian treasure.

Bruce McConchie on behalf of the SCSWA

Anchorages Concern Thetis

Cowichan Bay Ship Watch Society

Freighter Free Chemainus

Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society

Ladysmith Anchorage Watch

Plumper Sound Protection Association

Ruxton Anchorage Watch

Salt Spring Island: Protect The Islands Sea (PTIS)

The South Coast Ship Watch Alliance is an alliance of eight coastal community organizations that monitor environmental and health impacts of these anchorages.