Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages (GAFA)

Special to the Sounder

In the fall of 2023, the South Coast Ship Watch Alliance (SCSWA) made submissions about Southern Gulf Island (SGI) freighter anchorages before the parliamentary Transportation Committee in Ottawa looking into Bill C-33. The SCSWA appearance generated significant interest from all party committee members who were surprised to learn about the substantial impact these anchorages are having on residents and the unique ecosystem of the SGI. Subsequent to those submissions, the Transportation Committee passed further changes to Bill C-33 adding the 14 day limit on freighter anchorage use.

GAFA members worked with the SCSWA, providing key data and information to support the submissions and to help respond to numerous questions from committee members about anchorage use and impact. This included facts about the 300% increase in Gulf Island anchorage use over the last 15 years when there was only a 25% increase in the amount of cargo shipped in and out of the Port of Vancouver. While freighter use of other area anchorages in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Victoria remained relatively flat over these years, use of anchorages in the SGI increased exponentially. More importantly, Southern Gulf Island anchorage use by freighters before they enter the Port of Vancouver to pick up cargo saw some of the fastest growth. Overall anchorage use in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria and the Southern Gulf Island areas went from 4,000 anchor days per year in 2009 to over 14,000 in 2022.

This is not news to residents of Gabriola Island. The fall of 2023 saw Trincomali Anchorages 7, 8 and 9 full much of the time. The noise from the freighter generators turned quiet nights and days into endless industrial level noise 24/7. Local resident complaints to the Port of Vancouver went unheeded as there was no change to the behaviour of freighters like the bulk cargo carrier Maizuru Bentsen. This ship anchored at Trincomali anchorage 9 for approximately five weeks before it made its first visit to pick up cargo at Robert’s Bank. This seems to be the pattern at many SGI anchorages. At the January 2024 Salish Sea Conference in Vancouver, hosted by Transport Canada, residents of Valdes Island reported freighter noise so loud that it was heard not only on the west side of Valdes, but also the east. GAFA’s view is that The Interim Protocol for the Use of Gulf Island Anchorages, meant to stop these behaviours, is simply an ineffective tool that industry chooses to ignore. This is especially true as there is no tracking to determine compliance with the Protocol.

While SCSWA and GAFA advocated for elimination of all gulf island anchorages before the Transportation Committee, GAFA feels the 14 day limit will go some way to stopping problems caused by freighters like the Maizuru Bentsens’ 5 week loitering in gulf island waters. We still have a long, long way to go. The most immediate task is doing what we can to ensure the 14 day limit amendment gets passed at third reading when Bill C-33 goes back before the House of Commons.

Once again, we are asking for your help. It’s time to let your MPs know that the 14 day limit amendment is an important first step towards preserving and protecting these waters and habitat. What we have learned since GAFA’s 2015 inception is that our Gulf Island voices can make a difference and the more voices our politicians hear about this now, the greater the chance the 14 day amendment will pass.

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