Freighters line-up off Kinsmen Beach Park in Chemainus. Photo by Kyle Christensen.
One thing dominates the view as you look out from our coastal shorelines at the magnificent Pacific, massive freighters waiting for their turn at the Port of Vancouver.
The waters off the east coast of Vancouver Island are free for freighters to park in, resulting in a lot of traffic.
This reality isn’t lost on Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor who says he sees how serious this problem is whenever he flys to Ottawa.
“Every time I was flying over our precious coastline along eastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, from the air you can see just how many freighters are using those waters as they wait for their turn at the Ports in Vancouver,” said MacGregor.
He added, “Something has to change, they’re being used far too often and the amount of time that those tankers are staying there has increased.”
According to the Port of Vancouver, ships have anchored in and around the Gulf Islands for years as these anchorages are in deep water and can, therefore, accommodate larger vessels.
Historically, the majority of commercial ships that anchor in the Gulf Islands has been bulk carriers for grain, with some coal, potash, sulphur and, on the rare occasion, the remaining few are container vessels.
MacGregor said he’s working to develop a private members bill addressing this reality.
“I’ve been working with the House of Commons administration in trying to construct a private members bill, a piece of legislation that would actually put some legislative teeth into dealing with this problem and trying to make sure that our precious coastline isn’t used as an overflow, industrial parking lot for these freighters,” said MacGregor.
He said, “The Port (of Vancouver) has to do a better job in managing how it handles shipping traffic coming in and out of its facilities because if we are getting too many ships arriving at one time and they’re not able to go in and load up, that’s a real a problem with how we’re managing our facilities, how we’re managing traffic coming in.”
Transport Minister Marc Garneau hasn’t responded to our requests for an interview.
MacGregor has had conversations with Garneau and he calls those talks “an absolute dead end.”