As the federal government reviews anchorages and the freighters continue to linger in the Strait of Georgia, voices in the region want their concerns heard.
NDP members of Parliament Sheila Malcolmson and Alistair MacGregor hosted a round-table meeting Friday in Nanaimo to talk about the impacts of commercial anchorages in the strait.
According to Malcolmson, 21 organizations were represented at the round-table at the Coast Bastion Hotel as well as four local governments and four First Nations.
The Nanaimo Ladysmith MP said risks are increasing as freighters extend their stays, and said there have been “near-misses” as far as accidents and spills.
“All downside, no upside for Coastal communities,” she said.
MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, drew a similar conclusion, pointing to noise and light pollution and unknowns when it comes to runoff.
“There are no economic benefits coming to our local communities from these freighters overstaying their welcome, and we also have to look at this issue through local environment lens, First Nations territorial waters, their rights to fishing and harvesting,” MacGregor said. “These are all being impacted by these freighters.”
Chris Straw, president of the Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages, said a ship sitting at anchor for 30, 40, sometimes 50 days doesn’t benefit the Canadian economy.
“It’s a drain. There is an inefficiency to the Vancouver port supply chain right now and it’s going to take a lot of will and a lot of efforts from the people in this room and far beyond that to get to some real solutions,” he said.
Straw said there have been dramatic increases in the number of freighters and length of stays, which he said “doesn’t really correspond” with cargo volumes.
“I think it’s in everybody’s interest that they get in, they load and they leave. That’s how the system should work,” he said. “So I think the solution is not so much, ‘If not in the Gulf Islands, where?’ but the solution is ‘What’s causing an industry to have such a spillover effect on communities?’”
Peter Luckham, chairman of the Islands Trust, said the trust has asked the federal government to take “all the measures possible” to reduce and ultimately eliminate the use of the 33 commercial freighter anchorage sites throughout the southern Gulf Islands region. He called the current situation unacceptable.
“The upland properties all throughout the Gulf Islands are zoned rural residential and this industrial activity is not compatible with the upland uses,” Luckham said.
In an e-mail to the News Bulletin earlier this year, Transport Canada noted that the Oceans Protection Plan national anchorages review would determine a set of standards for the selection and use of existing or new anchorage locations.
Malcolmson and MacGregor suggested that Friday’s round-table would help them make a better case for their region on the subject.
“We’re going to speak with authenticity and authority,” MacGregor said.
-files from Karl Yu/The News Bulletin