They’re not a new sight, but for some, they are a sore one. Cargo ships are idling, waiting their turn to unload or load up and ship out.
“We’ve had them in Cowichan Bay for as long as 84 days before,” said Peter Holmes, President of the Cowichan Bay Ship Watch Society.
“Why are we looking out our windows and seeing out coasts, which are marine sensitive, being used as an overflow industrial freighter parking lot for the port of Vancouver?” asked Nanaimo MP Lisa Barron.
The federal NDP is taking up the issue in Ottawa. They have added an amendment to Bill C-33 to create a maximum two-week stay for freighters off our coast.
“We’re hoping it’ll stay intact going through the final reading. Any step is a good step,” said Holmes.
It’s a good step, says Holmes, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why so many cargo ships are sitting there for so long in the first place.
“It seems long-range planning hasn’t taken place, and the supply chain is very inefficient,” said Holmes. “There’s been no plan for them to arrive in any schedule.”
In 2022, in a study measuring global port efficiency, the port of Vancouver named the second least efficient port in the world, with some cargo ships waiting weeks to get in.
In October of 2023, the port of Vancouver launched a new centralized active vessel transportation system which coordinates ship traffic and creates a schedule for the arrival of these ships.
The port says these new measures have resulted in a one-fifth reduction in the number of anchorage-related complaints compared to 2022, and 44 per cent fewer nighttime arrivals and departures from anchorages in the area compared to fall 2022.
But then there’s the concern of the lack of rules and regulations the ships face when they are sitting.
“Noise, light, emissions, and discharge,” said Holmes.
The port of Vancouver currently asks ships anchored in B.C. waters outside of the port to voluntarily follow their code of conduct, but it’s not monitored or enforced.
“There’s some adherence, some not,” said Holmes.
The port of Vancouver, however, says more than 2,000 ship operators ‘acknowledge’ their code of conduct at 33 anchorages throughout B.C.’s waterways, many near Ladysmith, Cowichan Bay, Trincomali, and Plumper Sound.
The bill aimed at restricting how long freighters can anchor in B.C. to 14 days is currently facing a committee review, with no timeline yet known for its final reading.
The Chamber of Shipping did not respond to CHEK News’ request for comment on how this might impact business.