Introducing the South Coast Ship Watch Alliance

It’s time to introduce the South Coast Ship Watch Alliance. For several years now, Environmentalists and residents of Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith, Saltair and the Southern Gulf islands have been sounding the alarm about bulk freighters anchoring in local waterways. In community after community, independent volunteer groups have been created in response to an increasing onslaught of commercial cargo ships spilling over from the Port of Vancouver into the South West corner of the Salish Sea. Until recently, these groups have been working independently, researching the harmful impacts these huge ships are having on their communities and the environment. They’ve also sent countless letters to politicians and government officials; organized petitions; held meetings and phone calls with Transport Canada officials and put on many community gatherings to keep people informed. But the ships just keep coming.

In 2015, a plan to create even more anchorages off the NE coast of Gabriola Island caused a strong backlash and brought even more attention to the matter. In 2017, in response to the outcries of coastal communities, Transport Canada announced a National Anchorages Initiative to study the issue of cargo ships anchoring outside of Ports. From all accounts, this initiative is focused on voluntary measures andlow level guidelines aimed at encouraging foreign ships to respect local communities while at anchor. In other words, it’s a plan with no teeth. For the communities bearing the brunt of the situation, this just doesn’t cut it.

Last year the groups throughout the region realized more had to be done to raise awareness of the issue and get the Canadian government to take the issues seriously. They came together to form the South Coast Ship Watch Alliance. The goal was to speak with a common voice and push for solutions that would keep dangerous industrial shipping activity from ruining this ecologically rich and beautiful corner of the Salish Sea.

Our concerns include:

  • Anchor chains scouring the local seabed and destroying marine life
  • Noise pollution from diesel generators running 24/7 and use of heavy industrial equipment
  • Bright lighting systems disrupting health & safety of wildlife and humans
  • Pollution of the local air shed from ship engines and diesel generators
  • Threat of major fuel spill in the event of a ship dragging anchor in a storm and running aground

Potential Solutions Include:

  • Removing bottle necks in the supply chain like poor rail connections, inspection delays and a lack of weatherproof loading facilities
  • Better tracking of shipping data and commercial contracting details to improve scheduling
  • Fees and other disincentives to minimize early arrivals and long stays at anchor before going to port
  • Improving anchoring capacity inside the Port of Vancouver

We need your help to make change, please help us take action.