Active Vessel Traffic Management Program

Phase three engagement summary report now available

In fall 2022, we held phase three engagement for the AVTM Program to seek feedback on:

Thank you to everyone who provided valuable feedback and participated by attending the open houses and online information session.

Read the phase three engagement summary report here
To learn more, visit:

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Contact us

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  

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. 

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. As defined in our Port Information Guide, tier 1 vessels include all piloted ships and tug and barge combinations, as well as non-piloted tug and barge combinations with a barge of 10,000 tonnes or more carrying capacity, and all non-piloted vessels including barges and articulated tugs and barges when loaded. 

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 in 2023 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, identify opportunities to increase port efficiency, and help better manage the community effects of commercial ship traffic bound for the Port of Vancouver.  

We have completed three phases of engagement to date:

  • Phase one engagement focused on outreach with Indigenous groups, local governments, and various organizations to help inform the design of a meaningful and actionable process for engaging the broader community in the development of the AVTM system
  • Phase two engagement focused on informing community stakeholders on how the flow of commercial ships bound for the Port of Vancouver is managed and providing opportunities for stakeholders to share ideas for the new AVTM system
  • Phase three engagement focused on sharing program updates with Indigenous groups and the public and collecting feedback on the draft anchorage code of conduct, as well as our approach to information sharing and complaint resolution

For more information on future 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] 

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. 

Learn more about the initial phase of engagement, including the feedback received:  

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. 

Learn more about the second phase of engagement, including the feedback received: 

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. 

Learn more about the third phase of engagement, including the feedback received: 

 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