Green Party members of Parliament say there are actions the federal government can take to limit the stays of freighters off the Gulf Islands. (News Bulletin file photo)

Green Party members of Parliament say there are actions the federal government can take to limit the stays of freighters off the Gulf Islands. (News Bulletin file photo)

OPINION: Freighters overstaying welcome, but solutions exist, say Green MPs

Green Party MPs Elizabeth May and Paul Manly urge political will to address anchorages

BY ELIZABETH MAY AND PAUL MANLY

As Members of Parliament representing communities bordering the Salish Sea, we have worked for years to get unwanted freighter anchorages out of the waters around the Gulf Islands. First Nations, local governments and grassroots community organizations have made it very clear that the light, noise, pollution and environmental degradation caused by freighters are not welcome. But the water past the low tide mark is federal jurisdiction. Transport Canada marked 33 sites in and around the Gulf Islands as designated areas for safe anchorage. Those free parking spots are now in near constant use by foreign bulk freighters waiting to load in the Port of Vancouver.

The situation has worsened in recent years. Concerned residents deserve to know how the problem got so bad, and what we can do to remedy it.

The Port of Vancouver is very efficient when it comes to the loading and unloading of container ships. It is the shipment of goods in bulk, particularly grain and coal, that is at the centre of the anchorage problem.

In 2012, the Harper government eliminated the Canadian Wheat Board and with it went the central logistics desk for grain shipments. Now the system is so inefficient that grain freighters regularly make multiple trips into port and back to anchor before they are fully loaded.

Another piece of the freighter traffic problem is the export of U.S. thermal coal. Strong environmental regulations in Washington, Oregon and California have made it virtually impossible to ship thermal coal from western U.S. ports. Canada’s weaker environmental regulations have drawn that dirty export to our shores.

We were pleased to second MP Alistair MacGregor’s private member’s bill to ban freighter anchorages in and around the Gulf Islands. But we recognize, as does MP MacGregor, that the bill is not workable legislation, and is primarily intended as a way to raise awareness.

READ ALSO: NDP MP introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the south coast

We have repeatedly pressed Transport Minister Marc Garneau on this completely unacceptable situation. What level of catastrophe will be required to provoke Transport Canada to mandate change? And what type of change will address the root cause of the situation, rather than simply shifting it elsewhere?

Working on this issue together, we have been increasingly drawn to Australia’s approach. The Port of Newcastle had a similar freighter parking problem, until the coal ship Pasha Bunker dragged anchor and ended up on a popular local beach. There is nothing like an accident of this magnitude to motivate governments. Newcastle implemented a vessel arrival system that requires freighters to contact the port 15 days ahead of their anticipated arrival. Port authorities can then require a vessel to slow down in order to match its arrival to its loading time at the port. The system has been a success. Two-thirds of vessels loading at Newcastle no longer anchor at all, and the remainder have dropped from an average of 11 days at anchor to just three days.

The solution to the freighter problem in the Salish Sea is not as simple as legislating a ban on freighter anchorages in a specific geographical area. We must reduce the demand for anchorage. That means continuing to improve the efficiency of loading grain onto ships. It means banning the export of climate-destroying U.S. thermal coal from Canadian ports. And it means implementing a vessel arrival system at the Port of Vancouver, and stronger regulations and protections within Canada’s territorial limits.

The freighter anchorage problem is fixable. It is the absence of political will to address its root causes that perpetuates this unacceptable situation.

Elizabeth May is MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Paul Manly is MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

READ ALSO: Freighters overstaying their welcome in the strait, say Vancouver Island MPs

Letters to the editor

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

Just Posted

In January, six flights with cases of COVID-19 onboard have landed at the Victoria International Airport so far. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two new COVID-19 exposures reported on flights to Victoria

A Jan. 10 flight from Toronto and Jan. 11 flight from Calgary were affected

West Shore RCMP are looking for a suspect and their mini van, which crashed into a parked vehicle and home along the 200-block of Island Highway in View Royal on Jan. 18. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver crashes into parked car and home in View Royal, speeds away: RCMP

Incident took place near 200-block of Island Highway Monday night

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal attacked by unseen predator in waters off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures harrowing footage of what appears to be a seal’s final moments

Firefighters respond to a fire on Heatherly Road in Colwood Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of View Royal Fire Rescue)
Two people escape injury in Colwood house fire

Heatherly Road fire started on a covered porch

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Most Read