Managing port noise

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is federally mandated to facilitate Canada’s trade objectives while protecting the environment and considering local communities.

The Port of Vancouver is growing as a result of increasing demand for trade between Canada and Asia. At the same time, more people are moving into our neighbouring communities.

Port operations are industrial by nature and occur on a 24/7 basis. However, we have a responsibility to local residents and businesses to work to minimize noise annoyances originating from federal port lands.

Our community feedback line provides a point of contact for the community, and enables us to track issues and try to resolve them. Over half of the community complaints we received in 2015 were related to noise from port activities, particularly from ships, terminals, and trains.

We created a noise monitoring program to better understand the source and intensity of port-related noises and to better respond to community concerns.

Eleven long-term noise monitoring stations have been installed in locations across the port; they are fully contained, include a microphone to measure and record sound, and are connected to a secure wireless network to transmit data in real time. Some stations also capture weather data, as weather can influence how sound travels through the atmosphere. The public can access this noise data in real time on our website.

We assess the potential for noise from proposed projects on port lands during our Project and Environmental Review process and we have developed guidelines for proponents to assist them in conducting noise assessments. We also incorporated noise mitigation into new infrastructure projects. For example, the Low Level Road Project in North Vancouver includes a noise wall to limit sound transmission, and sloped surfaces to deflect the noise upward and away from the adjacent community. The project has won several engineering awards including the Peak of Excellence Award from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, the 2015 Award for Engineering Excellence from the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies British Columbia, and the Platinum Award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision for sustainable infrastructure.

While port noise can never be completely eliminated, the noise-monitoring network allows us to better identify and track noise issues raised by communities and then work toward mitigation where possible.

Duncan Wilson
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority