Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

Public engagement – now until August 31, 2022

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority invites you to learn about our work to develop an active vessel traffic management system and share your ideas:

Contact us
To receive information about this project, and to be notified about the next phase of engagement, sign up for our newsletter.

Email: [email protected].

Collaborating to create a more efficient port 

Cargo volumes through the Port of Vancouver continue to grow, increasing the need to optimize the flow of ship traffic (commercial vessels) in and out of the port. Many parties work together to ensure that trade through the gateway is fluid, which requires careful coordination of ship movements through increasingly busy and confined waterways. 

As defined in our Port Information Guide, tier 1 vessels include: 

  • All piloted vessels and tug and barge combinations when piloted, regardless of tonnage 
  • All non-piloted tug and barge combinations with a barge of 10,000 tonnes or more carrying capacity 
  • All non-piloted vessels ships, including barges and articulated tugs and barges (ATBs) when in product 

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is taking an active role in the strategic and operational planning of ship traffic through the port with the development of the Active Vessel Traffic Management (AVTM) Program. We are well positioned to lead this work given our role as shared stewards of the Port of Vancouver and relationship to industry stakeholders within the supply chain. We are working with Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Pacific Pilotage Authority, and industry, and engaging Indigenous groups, municipalities, community stakeholders, and the public to explore a range of opportunities to increase efficiency and better manage community effects of commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver. 

What is active vessel traffic management?

Active vessel traffic management refers to the system that prioritizes and optimizes the movements of tier 1 vessels within the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s jurisdiction. The purpose of this system is to ensure ship safety and environmental protection, while also increasing the efficiency of goods movement through the Port of Vancouver.

The new active vessel traffic management system will complement the safety and navigation services currently provided by the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services. Marine pilots, who support the ship’s captain by determining the safest route through the Port of Vancouver’s constrained waters to the intended marine terminal, will also continue to play an important role in ensuring safety while following this new system. 

Why is coordinated management of commercial ships important? 

As Canada’s largest port and home to 29 major terminals, the Port of Vancouver handles the most diversified range of cargo in North America: bulk, containers, breakbulk, liquid bulk, automobiles, and cruise. Over 3,000 ships call at the port each year, and with demand predicted to grow, this number will increase.  

With growth comes increased complexity and challenges in managing the efficient movement of ships. Advanced coordinated planning and scheduling is needed to address potential conflicts between a variety of ship types serving different commodity sectors, and other modes of transportation that place demand on waterways. This includes accounting for increasing demand, larger ships, tidal windows, and transit times to and from terminals at the port. 

Five elements of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

The Active Vessel Traffic Management (AVTM) Program will include a set of policies, procedures, practices, incentives, technologies, and data-sharing methodologies to create benefits for all partners and stakeholders. As a wide variety of cargo flows through this diversified port, varying approaches will be necessary for tools and processes. Our AVTM Program includes five integrated elements that will be delivered in stages to support the evolution of ship traffic management at the Port of Vancouver.

Implementing change in high traffic areas 

The program roll out will begin with the Second Narrows Traffic Control Zone (TCZ-2) because of the complexity and importance of this multipurpose intersection for many port users. Other traffic control zones within the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s jurisdiction will be implemented in the later phases of the program.









Industry engagement 

With many parties involved in ship movements, collaboration is key to the success of a new AVTM system. Input from industry helped the port authority complete an options and feasibility analysis of ship traffic management in 2020. From the results of that analysis, together with industry, we identified several opportunities for the development of an AVTM program, which include:  

  • Reducing inefficiencies in the gateway and associated loss of productivity or costs to users  
  • Providing a safe, more fluid and consistent traffic flow  
  • Enhancing cooperation between the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Canadian Coast Guard, and Pacific Pilotage Authority given shared responsibilities in some areas  
  • Using real-time information to make traffic scheduling decisions to meet existing demands and provide a responsive traffic management pattern   

The port authority will continue to collaborate with industry stakeholders involved in marine transportation, terminal operators, cargo owners, associations, and other marine users throughout the development of this collaborative system aimed at managing ship traffic and optimizing supply chain flow to meet Canada’s growing trade needs through the Port of Vancouver.  

Leveraging industry expertise to advance system development

To effectively design a collaborative AVTM system to manage ship traffic and optimize the fluidity of the supply chain, the port authority formed an advisory panel of industry leaders from the marine and supply chain sectors to leverage their expertise and on-the-ground industry experience when developing the system.    

Indigenous and community engagement

In January 2022, the port authority began engaging with Indigenous groups and communities in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and the Southern Gulf Islands to share information about how commercial ship movements are managed today, to identify opportunities to increase port efficiency, and help better manage the community effects of commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver.  

This initial phase of engagement focused on outreach with Indigenous groups, local governments, and organizations that have previously expressed interest in ship traffic management including the assignment of anchorages, to help us design a meaningful and actionable process for engaging the broader community in the development of the AVTM system moving forward. Phase one engagement is now complete and in our engagement report we have summarized what we heard. 

We are currently holding phase two engagement and inviting community stakeholders to continue to learn about how commercial ships bound for the Port of Vancouver are managed and share their ideas as we develop the new system. For more information on current engagement opportunities, visit our engagement page: 

Measuring success

We will work with industry partners to develop performance indicators to measure progress on the program elements and ensure benefits to partners, communities and stakeholders are realized, including improvements in cargo throughput and efficiency for ships calling at the Port of Vancouver.  

Aligning with supporting and complementary initiatives

The AVTM Program will align with other port authority-led initiatives to make coordinated planning easier and more efficient for parties involved. These include initiatives such as the West Coast Supply Chain Visibility Program and the Port Optimization and Digitalization Visioning Study. 

For more information 

For program updates, please subscribe to our AVTM email list. 

Email: [email protected] 

Additional resources 
Active Vessel Traffic Management – June 2022 program overview [PDF]
Ship traffic management and the environment – July 2022 fact sheet [PDF]
Southern Gulf Island anchorage jurisdiction – July 2022 fact sheet [PDF]
Active vessel traffic management – spring 2022 program update  [PDF]
Port optimization initiatives/active vessel traffic management: May 2022 phase 1 engagement summary report[PDF]
Port optimization initiative/active vessel traffic management: February 2022 phase 1 engagement presentation [PDF]
Active vessel traffic management – winter 2022 program update  [PDF]
Active vessel traffic management program – information sheet [PDF]