Safety and security of marine traffic

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is responsible for facilitating Canada’s growing trade while protecting the environment, a responsibility that spans a vast array of activities and regulations regarding commercial and recreational marine activities.

Our operations centre monitors and tracks marine objects within our federal navigational jurisdiction to prevent and mitigate environmental risks and eliminate hazards to navigational safety.

A common concern is derelict vessels, such as partially-sunken recreational boats. Dealing with derelict vessels is challenging and potentially very costly, depending on the circumstances and location. Vessel owners are responsible for removing derelict vessels, including the associated costs. However, under the Canada Marine Act, the port authority may take action to remove derelict vessels if there is any navigational and/or environmental safety risk. We assess derelict vessels in our waters, monitor their condition, and collaborate with agencies to contact the vessel owners.

We are also responsible for dredging, or removing sediment, from port waters to maintain proper depth and keep our waterways open for trade vessels. Dredging requirements differ depending on location. For instance, Burrard Inlet is a deep-water port, but certain projects may require one-time dredging, referred to as capital dredging. On the other hand, the Fraser River requires annual dredging because of the continuous run-off of the river and the sand that is deposited as it nears the sea.

The movement of petroleum tankers is another safety priority for the port authority. Crude oil tankers have safely navigated the harbour for more than 60 years. All tankers calling on Vancouver have double hulls, with two layers of heavy steel protecting their cargo, and must be approved for use. Transport Canada Port State Control monitors every vessel that comes into Canadian waters and can access vessel information including its history and any known deficiencies. Further, each petroleum terminal typically conducts its own stringent inspections on all tankers calling a terminal.

Although we are not a first responder in spill response, we do provide operational assistance. The Canada Shipping Act (2001) is Transport Canada’s regulatory framework surrounding marine pollution and its enforcement. In the case of a report of pollution in the water, including oil or fuel spills, Canada operates under the National Spill Response Protocol, which specifies that the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for all spill response and recovery. In Vancouver, recovery operations are provided by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation. We can be called upon by the Coast Guard to conduct an initial inspection in response to a pollution report in our jurisdiction.

Every vessel entering port may be subject to a visit from a port authority harbour patrol officer. During a visit on board, the officer will meet with and brief the ship’s crew on port practices and procedures. The officer will, if and when required, inspect and issue guidance to a ship’s crew to ensure compliance with local practices during routine vessel operations. Deep-sea vessels can also be inspected prior to, and during, bunker operations during which a ship is refueled. Harbour patrol officers will ensure both fuel providers and the ship’s crew are in compliance with port regulations and international best practices.

When it comes to recreational boating, harbour patrol officers and other agencies conduct routine vessel inspections. Vessels not in compliance with safe boating practices may be ticketed by the police. For instance, the officers might ticket a boater obstructing the deep-sea navigational channels or exceeding the speed limit when passing other vessels.

For more information, consult the Port Information Guide. It’s a comprehensive document that can further explain the policies and procedures related to our mandate to ensure the port remains safe and secure.

Peter Xotta
Vice President, Planning and Operations
Vancouver Fraser Port Authority