The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has a number of leading environmental programs and initiatives in place, including those that encourage and incentivize vessel and terminal operators, as well as other port users, to reduce air and noise emissions and to conserve electricity. Customer participation in these initiatives serves as an example of collaborative leadership contributing to a more sustainable port.
In place since 2014, the port authority-led collaborative regional initiative Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program is aimed at better understanding and managing the cumulative effects of shipping activity on at-risk whales, such as the iconic southern resident killer whales, along the southern coast of B.C.
Among other ECHO Program initiatives, the marine industry has participated in voluntary vessel slowdown trials to help reduce underwater noise from large piloted vessels transiting Haro Strait. These research trials began in 2017 and take place during the summer and autumn months when the southern resident killer whales return to the Haro Strait area to feed. In 2019, 82% of large commercial ships participated in the slowdown through Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and reduced underwater noise intensity by half. 2020 ECHO initiatives include the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass voluntary slowdown, the Strait of Juan de Fuca inshore lateral displacement, and the new voluntary ship slowdown trial for outbound ships at Swiftsure Bank. Strong participation rates to-date have again demonstrated industry’s willingness to collaborate to minimize the impact of marine operations on marine mammal habitats and the ecosystems at, and surrounding, the Port of Vancouver.
Each year, the port authority’s EcoAction Program recognizes a variety of fuel, technology and environmental management options, such as underwater noise-limiting technology, which marine carriers can adopt to qualify their vessels for discounted harbour dues rates. Bronze, silver and gold-level discounts create differentiated harbour dues rates, with up to 47% discounts available, depending on the measures adopted. Landside, the Energy Action Initiative is a joint program with BC Hydro that helps terminal operators and other port tenants enhance their energy conservation practices and save costs. The goal of this program is to protect the energy security of the growing Vancouver-area gateway by reducing energy waste.
To recognize marine carriers and port tenants that excel in environmental stewardship and attain the highest participation rates in the EcoAction Program and Energy Action Initiative, the port authority launched the Blue Circle Awards in 2009. This year, 30 recipients were honoured for the 11th annual Blue Circle Awards, including 18 shipping lines, six cruise lines, four coastal marine operators and two terminal operators.
2019 Blue Circle award highlights include:
“K” Line, Princess Cruises and Westwood Shipping Lines have been awarded every year since the inaugural awards in 2009.
Hapag-Lloyd has been recognized ten times.
Disney Cruise Line has received an award for every year it has homeported in Vancouver.
CMA CGM, HMM, and Mediterranean Shipping Company have won this award for seven consecutive years since 2013.
Evergreen Line has won this award for five consecutive years since 2016.
Another important milestone for the port authority’s Habitat Enhancement Program, which is focused on creating, restoring and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat, was reached in 2020: completion of the Maplewood Marine Restoration Project construction, after nine months of on-site activities.
The Maplewood Marine Restoration Project is located on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, approximately two kilometres east of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, in a marine site that was identified as a restoration priority by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. The site lies within a large marine tidal area immediately south of a wildlife conservation area. The upland Maplewood Flats Conservation Area is managed and administered by Environment Canada and operated by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia.
The Maplewood Marine Restoration Project is expected to enhance approximately five hectares of marine habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife. During construction, approximately 230,000 cubic metres of sand was placed in the area to raise the Maplewood basin floor, which will now support a variety of shellfish and crab and allow plants like eelgrass to grow on this elevated ocean floor. Eelgrass provides important refuge and nursery habitat for juvenile fish. This enhanced marine habitat is anticipated to provide long-term benefits for fish and invertebrates that depend on marine vegetation for rearing habitat, along with other fish and wildlife species such as waterfowl and wading birds.
The Habitat Enhancement Program continues to be a proactive measure intended to provide a balance between a healthy environment and future development projects that may be required for port operations.
Available at Canada Place cruise terminal since 2009, and at Centerm and Deltaport container terminals since 2018, Shore Power allows container and cruise vessels to plug-in to hydroelectric power while at berth. Shore Power is a clean technology that enables ships fitted with the necessary onboard technology to shut down auxiliary engines and help eliminate air emissions and engine noise. In an effort to expand the use of Shore Power for the cruise industry, the port authority launched preliminary studies into the use of mobile Shore Power units to minimize impacts to dock operations. This has the potential to enhance the cruise terminal’s ability to accommodate additional connections for Shore Power capable vessels calling at Canada Place.
Situated in the picturesque and iconic south-west coast of British Columbia, the Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest and most-diversified port. To support its vision to be the world’s most sustainable port, the port authority will continue working with its customers to adopt best practices, and responsibly manage future growth.