Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

Collaborating to create a safer, more efficient port 

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 

As Canada’s trade continues to grow, the port authority is working with industry partners and Transport Canada to improve how we accommodate this growth. Through collaboration with industry and engagement with Indigenous groups, municipalities, and community stakeholders, we are exploring a range of opportunities to increase efficiency and to help better manage the effects of marine vessel traffic on local communities.

This work includes port optimization and digitalization initiatives designed to make coordinated planning easier and to make supply chain movement more efficient. It also includes developing a new active vessel traffic management program (AVTM) in cooperation with the Canadian Coast Guard and the Pacific Pilotage Authority.

As the agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver, the port authority will manage the prioritization and sequencing of commercial ships (vessels) accessing the port in order to improve transparency, efficiency, and reliability for all port users, while also increasing throughput for trade-enabling vessels as they move through our waters.

In 2020 we began working with industry to identify a number of potential improvements. Technical engagement with industry will continue through 2022. We are now engaging with other potentially interested groups to understand broader interests that will support continued planning and decision making. This website will continue to be updated as details about engagement opportunities become available.

What is active vessel traffic management?

Active vessel traffic management refers to the system that prioritizes and optimizes when tier 1 vessels move within the port authority’s jurisdiction. The purpose of this system is to ensure vessel safety and environmental protection, while also increasing the efficiency of goods movement through the port.

The new AVTM program will complement the safety and navigation services currently provided by the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS). Marine pilots, who are responsible for navigating certain ships through port waters, will continue to play an important role in ensuring safety while following this new gateway sequencing.


Implementing change in high traffic areas

The initial focus for the AVTM program will be the Second Narrows Traffic Control Zone (TCZ-2). This decision was made because of the complexity and importance of this multipurpose intersection for many port users. Other traffic control zones within the port authority’s jurisdiction will be incorporated in later phases of the program’s roll-out. 

Why is management of vessels important?

Home to 29 major terminals, the port is able to handle the most diversified range of cargo in North America: bulk, containers, breakbulk, liquid bulk, automobiles, and cruise. Over 3,000 vessels call at the port each year, and with demand predicted to grow, this number will also increase. 

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

Upcoming industry engagement: building on input to date

In 2020, the port authority undertook an options and feasibility analysis of active vessel traffic management, which included industry stakeholder outreach. The feedback we received highlighted several opportunities from the development of an active vessel traffic management program, which includes: 

  • Reducing inefficiencies in the gateway and associated loss of productivity or costs to users 
  • Providing a safe, more fluid and consistent traffic flow 
  • Building cooperation between the 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  

Throughout the development of this program, the port authority will continue to engage stakeholders involved in marine transportation, terminal operators, cargo owners, associations, and other marine users. 

Current and planned activities 
2021  Work between port authority, Canadian Coast Guard, Pacific Pilotage Authority, and engagement with industry stakeholders to move forward with program development, including exploration of potential technology solutions 
2022  Implementation of the program with initial focus on TCZ-2 (anticipated by end of 2022) 
2023  Expansion of both areas of use and ability to provide enhanced services and transparency to broader port users 

Industry advisory panel to oversee AVTM system development

In August 2021, the minister of transport announced that the port authority would work with partners to design, by March 31, 2022, a new collaborative system to manage marine vessel traffic and optimize the supply chain flow, to meet Canada’s growing trade needs through the Port of Vancouver.  

To advance this work, the port authority has formed an advisory panel of industry leaders from the marine and supply chain sectors to oversee the design of the new vessel traffic management system. The advisory panel’s combined expertise and on-the-ground industry experience will inform the development of the new vessel traffic management system, to help enable Canada’s growing trade through the port.  

For more information 

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

Email: [email protected] 

Additional resources 

Port Optimization Initiatives/Active Vessel Traffic Management: Phase 1 Engagement Summary Report (May 2022)  [PDF]
Active Vessel Traffic Management – Winter 2022 Program Update  [PDF]
Active Vessel Traffic Management Program – Information sheet [PDF]