Who we are:

The South Coast Ship Watch Alliance [SCSWA] is a coalition of eight community groups in the Southern Gulf Islands, Chemainus, Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Saltair. We are concerned citizens, environmentalists, residents, and visitors; our purpose is to sound the alarm about bulk freighters anchoring in local waterways and the many negative impacts they are having on our environment, our homes, our communities, and the places we come to visit.

Our mission is to engage with government, industry and the Port of Vancouver to find solutions that will stop the use of Southern Gulf Islands waterways as an overflow parking lot for commercial freighters waiting for a berth in the Port of Vancouver.

South Coast Ship Watch Alliance Members:

  • Anchorages Concern Thetis
  • Cowichan Bay Ship Watch Society
  • Freighter Free Chemainus
  • Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society
  • Ladysmith Anchorage Watch
  • Plumper Sound Protection Association
  • Ruxton Anchorage Watch
  • Salt Spring Island: Protect The Islands Sea (PTIS)

Find out more about our concerns and suggestions for solutions.

You can contact us, or one of our Alliance members, here.

Please help us make change. Send a letter today asking the federal government to stop putting foreign shipping interests ahead of our environment and local residents.


A major gap in government regulation and oversight is allowing giant international cargo ships to anchor as long as they want in the “protected” waters of the Southern Gulf Islands and Cowichan Bay in British Columbia. The waters around BC’s Southern Gulf Islands are facing a serious environmental threat and time is running out to save them.

This video was produced by Ladysmith Anchorage Watch, a SCSWA member.

History of the Southern Gulf Islands anchorage

There isn’t a lot of information publicly available about the early history of commercial anchorage sites in BC’s Southern Gulf Islands. 34 locations, deemed to have suitable depth, holding ground and protection from strong winds, were designated in the mid 1970’s between Gabriola Island in the North and South Pender Island in the south.

It appears they were likely intended for smaller commercial vessels servicing what were called “Public” Ports along the southeast coast of Vancouver Island. We can find no evidence that any environmental impact assessments were done at the time, or since. Nor was there any meaningful consultation with local first nations or other coastal residents.

Lack of oversight: In the mid-1990s Transport Canada began to rid itself of ownership and responsibility for Public Ports across the country, in a process called the Port Divestiture Program. Many, including those in BC’s south coast were either transferred to another level of government of shut down. With that move, it appears, Ottawa relinquished regulatory authority over the use of the anchorage sites in the Southern Gulf Islands.

To this day Transport Canada acknowledges that it has not yet put any new regulations or other form of management or oversite in place to govern their use. In other words, for almost 25 years these anchorages have been a free for all when it comes to giant bulk freighters looking for a place to anchor.

The Transport Minister has the power to change things: Under the Canada Shipping Act, Canada’s Transport Minister has the authority to make regulations restricting the use of commercial anchorages. They could charge fees, and potentially invoke penalties for not following rules. But so far they’ve done nothing, but recommend a few voluntary measures that ships can ignore if they want to.

Meanwhile, the ships just keep coming. Large grain and coal ships started showing up to anchor in the early 2000s, leading to a dramatic spike in 2008 and continually growing use to this day...and they're staying for longer periods of time.


Our organization provides financial, technical and humanitarian assistance to those involved in the campaign against freighter anchorage


Education is at the heart of this issue, and we work tirelessly to help people understand the social, economic and environmental implications.


We believe that protecting these pristine waters is in the national interest so we work passionately to raise awareness and make your voices heard.


Want to help us save the Southern Gulf Islands? Join our core volunteers and work with us to spread the word and educate our citizens about this very special place.

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Year in ReviewCheck out the video.

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We raise awareness.

The protection of the Southern Gulf Islands benefits everyone and we work to bring people together in solidarity.

We help others.

We believe we are greater together than at odds, and so work tirelessly to bridge the gaps between industry, communities and First Nations.