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

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Saanich parks staff will be applying a herbicide called Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park between Jan. 18 to 29 to control the invasive species English holly and hawthorn. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

Treatment applied to English holly, hawthorn stumps, in Sayward Hill Park

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely first in B.C. for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Sidney's Beacon Wharf
Pontoon company piqued at prospect of public-private partnership around Sidney wharf

Seagate approached to submit proposeal for public-private partnership

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read