A sight for tired eyes: Thetis residents surrounded by freighters in recent weeks

The rural Southern Gulf Islands used to be a place where residents and visitors could escape the city and have a peaceful nights rest. In the past few years, these islands which laid between open waters, have become a floating industrial parking lot creating several environmental concerns and disruption.  A recount from a local Thetis resident, illustrates the concern for rising numbers of freighters in their coastal waters.

“It’s 10.53 at night when many Thetis folks are nestled in their beds. Not sleeping. Listening to an anchor going down, The grating and clanging echo across Trincomali Channel and bright lights shining onto the horizon.”

“For the past few weeks all six anchorages visible from the east side of Thetis have been occupied non-stop. Thirteen additional anchorages within a kilometre of the island have also been in use. Some ships measure up to 300 metres in length.

What was until recent years something BC people in a poll said should be preserved as a special, pristine and scenic natural environment is now a floating industrial park. Ship lights illuminate our nights and the maintenance banging rocks our days. Engines rumble and their smoke floats out of stacks 24-hours every day. The ship closest to Thetis has been dumping unidentified liquid almost daily for the past two weeks. As winds and tidal drifts change direction, the ships swing hundreds of metres and their anchor chains scrape the ocean floor.

Our complaints to the federal government about the commercial armada parked here are met mostly with silence. If it does reply, the only message decipherable in the bafflegab is telling us to shut up because these ships are participants in Canada’s robust international trade, vital to our national interest. In other words, it’s necessary to mess up a place and its people for profit and progress.

Before you dismiss me as a greenish lefty, consider that many of these ships here are waiting to transport dirty coal from the U.S. to Asian cities to fire electrical generating plants. Canada, which proclaims itself an environmental leader, is hypocritically participating in a process that’s the single greatest contributor on earth to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

A neighbour this week called the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to ask what liquid is being flushed from the nearest ship and why a tug boat had been circling it for hours. The Authority — who sends the ships here — said it didn’t know the answers and wouldn’t find out because Trincomali is beyond its jurisdiction. In fact, there’s no apparent oversight of the ships while they park for free here, some for up to 40 days.

We’ve turned to Islands Trust to take our side and bravely stand up for their mandate, the Islands Trust Act, provincial legislation that is supposed to preserve and protect the Gulf Islands, and that includes its surrounding waters. Whatever effort the Trust has made – even with a bylaw banning anchorages in much of Trincomali – it has obviously failed.” 

“Excuses and promises haven’t and won’t stop the blighting of paradise.”

-Thetis Island Resident, February 2020