Huge freighters are seemingly always parked around the waters off Thetis Island and Saltair. (Photo submitted)

Inaction on heavy freighter presence continues to irk Island residents

Extension of interim protocol for another year concerning for people in Saltair, on Thetis Island

The large number of huge freighters consistently parked on the waters around Thetis Island and Saltair remains a huge concern for residents of those areas.

Ottawa’s program to provide relief to residents bothered by ocean-going vessel anchorages has been a failure, a Thetis Island group has concluded.

“And this month we’ve learned that Transport Canada has extended their failed ‘interim protocol’ for another year,” Zdenek Brich, founder of Anchorages Concern Thetis (ACT) said. “The protocol expired August 8.”

A growing number of vessels, waiting to get into Vancouver and Roberts Bank, are parking in waters close to residences on Thetis and neighbouring islands. Groups such as ACT were formed to respond to the unacceptable nuisance — noise, night lights and visual blight — and unstudied and unregulated pollution and environmental harm brought by the ships.

Modest targets to fairly distribute anchorage uses among all affected communities and improve ‘ship behaviour’ were not reached since the voluntary protocol was initiated, Brich says. For example, ships often park close to residences while remote anchorage sites remain vacant. Some ignore the ban on industrial on-board daytime work. Responses by authorities to ACT comments and complaints have been stonewalled. Updated data and justification for the anchorages have not been made public.

ACT detailed these anchorage problems and offered solutions in a letter to Transport Canada this month. The group wants the new protocol to last only one year. The first six months would track financial costs to the public and shipping industry and the reasons offered for the anchorages, all information to be made public. In the second six months, anchoring would be prohibited except for emergency stays of no more than three days. ACT is also drafting petitions to be presented by area politicians to the provincial and federal governments to ultimately ban the anchorages from Gulf Island waters.

Following are issues highlighted in ACT activity this month:

All freighters in Trincomali Channel, on Thetis’ east side, in recent months head to Roberts Bank to pick up United States thermal coal to deliver to coal-fired generating plants overseas. At more than 40 percent, burning thermal coal is the single greatest contributor to world greenhouse gas emissions. These freighters — last week blowing their foghorns in thick wildfire smoke — are symbols of Canada’s complicity in aiding global warming, excused as ‘serving the national interest.’

ACT fears the federal multi-billion dollar Oceans Protection Plan will install permanent anchorage sites in the Gulf Islands. No evidence has been uncovered that shows the sites’ current status is legitimate. ACT says their destructive uses occur in part because both local and provincial governments have failed to exercise their responsibility to uphold anti-anchorage bylaws and their duty to protect the ocean environment for future generations. Ironically, the provincially-legislated Islands Trust Act mandates the preservation and protection of the Gulf Islands land and sea as a special environmental treasure for all of B.C. residents.

Continuation of the anchorage management protocol has been made with no request for input from Thetis people. ACT is requesting Transport Canada to hold its next anchorage meeting on Vancouver Island.

Brich explained that during the proposed three-month anchorage moratorium, ship agents and the Port of Vancouver would request vessels to slow down in order to arrive in B.C. waters at the time when goods are ready to load. Fuel consumption and various economic and social costs related to that strategy would be compared to those of the present method of anchorage visits that last up to 40 days and findings would be made public.

Meanwhile, the Saltair Ocean Protection Committee has sent a letter to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, according to Mary Desprez, as communities all around the Southern Gulf Islands are trying to stop the region from being turned into a free parking lot for commercial freighters.

Committee member Kay Morisset noted there have been four international freighters parked in the Ladysmith/Chemainus/Saltair area since Aug. 8.

“This is the result of the extension of the interim protocol initiated by Transport Canada for another 12 months,” she noted. “Our area is targeted. Coastal wildlife habitats, recreational areas and communities are at risk.”

According to one observation from a resident: “These tankers are huge, they affect the entire harbour even when there is only one at anchorage and I have seen four and five parked here at times. They light up the sky at night, are noisy, and have been witnessed and photographed discharging fluids into the harbour. This area is home to a large number of seniors who are affected by this and have trouble sleeping and I can only imagine what it’s doing to our wildlife and ecological system.”

Morisset added the area relies on tourism, an industry much better suited to the locale. “The sight of these enormous, unattractive vessels has been commented on by visitors and family I have had here this past year and I can only imagine what image people who travel from around the world to our area take home with them.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Donated sculpture in Sidney’s Beacon Park a testament to perseverance

Victoria artist Armando Barbon picked up sculpting 22 years ago

Greater Victoria businesses come together to help Island kids

Langford Lowe’s raises funds for youth mental health all month

Sidney builds community resilience through neighbourhood gatherings

Meet Your Street needs residents to create gatherings, safe interactions

Langford racing enthusiast back in driver’s seat of life after surviving aggressive cancer

70-year-old David Smith finishes mid-pack in Canada 200 race at Western Speedway

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read