Active Vessel Traffic Management (AVTM) Program

Enabling safe and efficient cargo movements through the Port of Vancouver to build a more competitive, resilient, and sustainable supply chain.

The latest
Learn about ongoing initiatives and recent progress in our latest program update

A first for Canada Port Authorities: centralized scheduling system launches at the Port of Vancouver 
The centralized scheduling system—a ship traffic management tool developed to enhance the overall safety, efficiency and reliability of goods movements at the Port of Vancouver—is now used by the port authority to coordinate the traffic of trade-enabling vessels in the Second Narrows, Burrard Inlet’s busiest waterway. 

First of its kind to be implemented by a Canada Port Authority, the centralized scheduling system is a key component and deliverable of the Active Vessel Traffic Management Program. It currently enables the port authority to play an active role in sequencing the traffic of commercial ships, tugs and barges bound for six marine terminals located east of the Second Narrows rail bridge, for enhanced maritime safety and port efficiency.  

Throughout this initial rollout phase, we will use the centralized scheduling system to coordinate and optimize more than a thousand ship transits every year in the Second Narrows, helping to increase cargo fluidity in this key trade area where marine and rail traffic intersect.  

As the first Canada Port Authority to develop and use this type of scheduling system to manage ship traffic, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is paving the way towards more competitive, resilient, and sustainable port supply chains. Learn more 

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Learn more about previous and upcoming opportunities to engage:

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For general inquiries about the AVTM Program, email [email protected]
For inquiries related to a ship currently at anchor, fill out the anchorages online form 
For inquiries related to other port activities and projects, fill out the community feedback form  

What is active vessel traffic management and why is it needed? 

Active vessel traffic management refers to the set of tools, guidelines, and practices we use to prioritize and optimize the movements of commercial ships, tugs, and barges of a certain tonnage within the waters that make up the Port of Vancouver. This coordination work is crucial to ensure cargo is transported safely and sustainably in and out of the port’s confined and increasingly busy waterways and to build an efficient and resilient supply chain able to support the current and future trade activities Canadians rely on.  

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 (such as grains, coal, and fertilizers), containers, breakbulk (such as oversized goods and equipment), liquid bulk (such as petroleum products and cooking oils), cars, and passengers (cruise). On average, around 3,000 ships call the port every year, and with growing demand, this number is set to increase.  

With increased cargo volumes moving through the Port of Vancouver comes increased complexity and challenges in managing the efficient movement of ships, emphasizing the necessity for active vessel traffic management to help prevent conflicts between a variety of ships serving different commodity sectors, and other modes of transportation placing demand on waterways. This includes accounting for larger ships, tidal windows, and transit times to and from terminals, and competing demand.

About the Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

The Active Vessel Traffic Management (AVTM) Program is one of the supply chain optimization initiatives led by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. It was initiated in 2021 with the goal of helping manage current and future cargo volumes transiting through the Port of Vancouver in a safer and more efficient and sustainable manner.  

The program includes the development and implementation of a multi-part active vessel traffic management system to enable the efficient flow of goods to and from the Port of Vancouver and help reduce the environmental and social impacts—such as noise, light, and air emissions—of commercial ship traffic in the region. Fluid and efficient ship movements mean fewer ship-related disruptions to marine users, coastal communities, and the environment, as well as a more competitive and resilient supply chain.

Program partners

The AVTM Program brings together several partners, including Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard and Pacific Pilotage Authority, and industry stakeholders whose collective operational experience and perspectives help inform the development of adequate ship traffic optimization tools and protocols. With many parties involved in ship movements, collaboration is key to the success of the program.

In addition to the central role industry plays in shaping the program, Indigenous groups, governments, community stakeholders, and the public also contribute to the development of program initiatives by sharing their interests and providing feedback on specific issues and solutions, such as the code of conduct for ships at anchor. We conducted three phases of engagement to date to identify opportunities to better manage the community effects of commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver as we work to increase port efficiency. Previous and upcoming engagement opportunities are detailed here. 

Program focus areas and benefits

The AVTM Program focuses on the development of policies, practices, incentives, technologies, and data-sharing frameworks that create benefits for all stakeholders and accommodate the various types of cargo that flow through the Port of Vancouver. The program’s key components, delivered in stages to support the evolution of ship traffic management at the Port of Vancouver, include:  

Individually and collectively, the program’s initiatives provide incremental value to port users and help minimize ship-related disruptions across port and coastal communities. Program benefits include:  

Program roll out and ongoing initiatives

The various components of the AVTM Program—and their related initiatives—will be rolled out in phases, starting in 2023.

Centralized scheduling system
As a key component of active vessel traffic management, the centralized scheduling system enables the port authority to prioritize and sequence the movements of cargo ships, tugs and barges in and out of the Port of Vancouver, for enhanced maritime safety and port efficiently. Every day, the system provides the port authority with the best available tide and current data and supply chain insights, allowing us to determine optimal transit windows and schedules based on prevailing demands, needs and circumstances.  

Over time, the efficiency gained through active vessel traffic management and the use of the centralized scheduling system will increase cargo throughout capacity at the Port of Vancouver as well as the overall reliability and competitivity of our maritime supply chain. By improving ships’ turnaround times at the port, the system will also help reduce the use of commercial anchorages and associated impacts—noise, light, air pollution—on coastal communities and the environment.   

The centralized scheduling system is currently being used to manage the traffic of trade-enabling vessels transiting through the Second Narrows (Traffic Control Zone 2), Burrard Inlet’s busiest waterway. It will be extended to other traffic control zones across our jurisdiction in later phases of the program. Learn more 

Overview of traffic control zones within the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s jurisdictional waters:

Anchorage management  
Anchorage code of conductas part of our commitment to reduce the impact of ship traffic on coastal communities and the environment, we implemented the first anchorage code of conduct in Canada in February 2023. The code of conduct outlines the practices we ask ship operators anchoring at the Port of Vancouver and around the Southern Gulf Islands to follow to minimize disruptionssuch as the ones caused by noise and lightand be good neighbours  

Arrival and departure window for ships anchoring around the Southern Gulf Islands—under Transport Canada’s Interim Protocol for the Use of Southern B.C Anchorages, the port authority manages the assignment of commercial ships at 33 anchorages around the Southern Gulf Islands. Together with industry, the port authority is piloting an arrival and departure window for ships anchoring around the Southern Gulf Islands asking ship operators to prioritize arriving at or departing from these 33 anchorages between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., to limit noise disruptions from anchor lowering on nearby communities at night, subject to logistics and safety-based exceptions. This measure has the potential to improve the quality of life of Southern Gulf Islands residents who shared with us that ships arriving at or departing from one of these anchorages at night are disruptive. Based on 2022 numbers, it is estimated that more than 75 nighttime ship arrivals and departures at Southern Gulf Islands anchorages will be avoided over the course of the trial periodabout a quarter of the total number of nighttime arrivals and departures recorded in the area last year.
Anchorage management protocolin collaboration with industry stakeholders and supply chain partners, we are in the process of reviewing our current approach to managing anchorages at the Port of Vancouver and defining the principles of a modernized anchorage management protocol and vessel arrival framework that consider the trade levels, operational challenges, and community concerns of today and tomorrow.  
Alternative mooring solutionsconsidering community feedback, we are exploring the feasibility of using a mooring system to increase anchorage capacity at the Port of Vancouver and ease the pressure on anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands. Assessment studies, including analyses of operational and economic feasibility for a dolphin mooring system that could be considered in and around the Vancouver harbour, are underway. 

A program building on data, experience and collaboration 

The scope of the AVTM Program was first defined by an advisory panel composed of members from the maritime and supply chain sectors and informed by the results of an option and feasibility analysis of ship traffic management conducted by the port authority in 2020, with input from industry. The following areas of opportunities for the development of an active vessel traffic management system were identified:

  • 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   

To this day, industry stakeholders—terminal operators, shippers associations, tugs and barge operators, marine pilots, and more—continue to play a crucial role in helping shape and implement program initiatives. They engage in ongoing workshops and provide invaluable expertise and insight into supply chain logistics, challenges, and optimization opportunities.  

For more information 

Subscribe to the AVTM Program newsletter   
Email your program-related questions, in English or French, to[email protected]
Discover Connect+ the port authority’s suite of supply chain digitization and optimization initiatives

Download the PortVan eHub app for real-time insight into Port of Vancouver operations, including ships at anchor 
Tune in to our Breaking Bottlenecks podcast series and discover how we approach and navigate logistics, infrastructure and supply chain-related challenges

Upcoming engagement

As we begin rolling out the new AVTM system in 2023, we will continue to share program updates, seek feedback on measures to further minimize community effects from commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver, and invite suggestions for continual improvement.  

Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of future engagement opportunities.  

Previous engagement

Phase one engagement

In early 2022, the port authority launched the first phase of engagement for the AVTM Program, and discussions with Indigenous groups, various levels of government, and community interest groups about opportunities to increase port efficiency and to help better manage the effects of ship traffic on local communities were initiated. 

Phase two engagement

In summer 2022, the port authority invited the public to learn about our work to develop an active vessel traffic management system and share ideas to inform this work. This phase of engagement focused on informing the public about the roles the port authority and other federal agencies play when it comes to marine trade, how ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver and anchorages are managed, and how increased port efficiency can help better manage the effects of anchorages on neighbouring communities. Over 350 people participated in this phase of engagement and provided feedback in-person and through mail, email, and an online survey. 

If you would like a copy of the engagement summary report for phase one and phase two engagement, please email [email protected]

Phase three engagement

In fall 2022, the port authority held the third phase of engagement, which focused on sharing information and collecting feedback on the draft anchorage code of conduct as well as on our approach to information sharing and complaint resolution. This phase included three community open houses on Pender Island, in Cowichan Bay and Ladysmith, and an online information session. Over 800 people participated in or provided feedback during this phase of engagement, either by attending open houses, virtual information sessions, or contacting us through mail or email, or by filling out an online survey. Read the phase three engagement summary report 

 Based on the feedback received, we are: 

  • Requesting ships anchored around the Southern Gulf Islands follow the same best practices as the ships anchored at the Port of Vancouver, as outlined in the Port Information Guide 
  • Developing, in collaboration with industry, additional measures to further reduce the impacts of ships at anchor, including enhanced anchorage management protocols  
  • Exploring on-water service to monitor ships anchored around the Southern Gulf Islands  
  • Exploring, in collaboration with Transport Canada, incentive measures to better manage anchorage use, as well as disincentives for long stays at anchorages in the Southern Gulf Islands  
  • Reviewing the frequency and content of project updates and improving our process to keep the community informed  
  • Continuing to consider feedback throughout the implementation of the anchorage code of conduct and making changes as needed