Feedback received from stakeholder groups through the Sustainable Gateway Initiative process identified climate change and ecosystem health as top environmental priorities. Programs addressing these two issues have long been a mainstay of Port Metro Vancouver’s work to fulfill its environmental mandate under the Canada Marine Act. Maintaining a healthy environment while delivering prosperity through trade is central to the Canadian port authority mandate. Updates to existing processes and the creation of exciting new initiatives are improving efforts to mitigate the effects of port-related activity on air quality and ecosystem health in the Gateway.

Launched in 2006, Port Metro Vancouver’s Air Action program includes a number of initiatives designed to support reductions in air emissions and greenhouse gases (GHG). One of the first programs within the portfolio was the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, a collaboration launched in 2007 between the Ports of Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma and regulatory agencies from both Canada and the U.S. This initiative has developed shared objectives for the ports to help reduce road, rail, cargo handling equipment and marine sector emissions. According to Carrie Brown, Director of Environmental Programs for Port Metro Vancouver, “the strategy was updated in 2013/14 and now includes objectives and targets for 2015 and out to 2020, so 2015 will be the first year that progress is reported on the new strategy objectives.”

Among the landside programs designed to help industry reduce emissions is Port Metro Vancouver’s Truck Licensing System (TLS), which was revised and relaunched in February 2015. The TLS contains enhantced truck age requirements that align with Port Metro Vancouver’s current environmental standards.

In January 2015, a new landside program for tenants of federal lands administered by Port Metro Vancouver was launched. The Non-Road Diesel Emissions (NRDE) Program aims to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions associated with non-road equipment by encouraging the use of newer, cleaner, lower emissions-producing cargo handling equipment on terminals. The NRDE program includes a new fee for tenants who operate or permit operation of older non-road diesel equipment. “We’re currently working with our tenants to implement the program including registering and labelling applicable equipment,” says Brown. She adds that thanks to extensive input from stakeholders during the creation of the program, feedback so far has been positive.

The EcoAction Program, introduced in 2007, recognizes ships that employ environmentally preferable practices, in particular emissions reductions. The program was geared toward recognizing early adopters of the North America Emissions Control Area Regulations limiting fuel sulphur content which initially came into effect in 2012, followed by more stringent limits in place as of January 2015. The EcoAction Program is evolving in response to this regulatory milestone to focus on greenhouse gases and other aspects of ship environmental performance.

Finally, Port Metro Vancouver’s Energy Action Program, a partnership with BC Hydro, is promoting energy efficiency and use of alternative energy with terminal operators and industrial tenants. The program provides technical resources and incentives for efficiency projects such as energy management tools, lighting retrofits and efficient motors. “We started this initiative in 2012 and the first years have been exciting. We worked with our tenants to design the program and have focused on providing them with the resources they need to make informed decisions about energy efficiency projects and to secure incentives where available. We’ve been able to help secure significant incentives for tenants through our partnership with BC Hydro and see a bright future for this program.”

Monitoring Environmental Performance

Monitoring environmental performance is an important part of Port Metro Vancouver’s environmental programs. In 2014, Port Metro Vancouver partnered with Metro Vancouver, and funded seven new air quality monitoring stations for the south shore of Burrard Inlet. These monitoring stations measure real-time emissions around the harbour which helps track emission trends and assess the impact of the new North America Emissions Control Area regulations. Work is also underway on a joint study with Tsawwassen First Nations and Metro Vancouver to monitor air quality on Tsawwassen First Nations lands. This multi-phase study is intended to assess air quality trends and determine if additional permanent monitoring infrastructure is needed. The findings and data from this study will be available to the public in early 2016.

Another important aspect of monitoring and measuring environmental performance is Port Metro Vancouver’s emissions inventories. The first emissions inventory was conducted in 2005, with additional inventories conducted every five years. These inventories provide important information about criteria air contaminants and greenhouse gases associated with port activities, such as trucking, rail, cargo handling equipment and ocean-going vessels. Work is currently underway to develop the methodology for the 2015 emissions inventory which inform how emissions are estimated for the various sectors. “The 2015 inventory is an important milestone that will help us track port emissions trends relative to 2010 and determine priorities for our air programs. One of our focuses this year,” says Brown, “is to integrate other sources of data and technology, such as the GPS technology installed on all drayage trucks, to improve emissions inventorying.”

Brown expects to see reductions in emissions of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, but anticipates absolute greenhouse gas emissions will have risen in tandem with the steady growth of trade throughput. Port Metro Vancouver’s Air Action programs are working to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gases, for example, through the introduction of shore power at the Canada Place cruise terminal in 2009 which is now being expanded to container terminals in 2016, or by partnering with BC Hydro and tenants to conduct feasibility studies on efficiency or alternative energy. These studies assess ways to convert cargo handling equipment from diesel to electric, hybrid or natural gas. “There are some technological challenges to making these changes, in addition to significant costs,” Brown explains, “for example, some of these technologies require reorganizing existing terminal layouts and operations because the space needed for the new technologies, such as the size of LNG fuel storage tanks or electric cable reels. And the energy density of natural gas is lower than diesel which means more interruptions for equipment refueling.” Yet she is optimistic that the barriers to adopting these technologies will eventually be worked out. “There is a lot happening behind the scenes, where energy supply companies are looking to innovate and be progressive on the terminal and marine front.”


Feedback gathered through the Sustainable Gateway Initiative process also identified ecosystem health as a key concern of communities and stakeholders in the Gateway. Port Metro Vancouver has always considered ecosystem health and biodiversity as priorities and in November 2014 launched the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program. The Port, together with a broad group of collaborators, is working to further understand and manage the potential impacts of shipping activities on whales in the region. Following the work plan developed with advice from the program’s advisory group, early initiatives will focus on addressing the potential effects of underwater noise on the health and well-being of the whale population throughout the southern coast of British Columbia.

A key project component is the installation of an underwater listening station in the Strait of Georgia, which will help to measure baseline noise levels and increase understanding of how the cleaning of ship hulls can potentially enhance fuel efficiency and decrease underwater noise. The data collected will also provide information about vessel sound levels and how often whales are present in this part of the Salish Sea. According to Brown, “the goal of the ECHO Program is to develop mitigation measures that will lead to a reduction in potential threats to whales as a result of shipping activities. These mitigations could include diverting vessels around where large whales are known to be present. Or possibly slowing vessels down at certain times of the year, education for vessel pilots and other mariners, or vessels designed to be quiet.” She suggests that future mitigations might be incentivized through new criteria in the port’s EcoAction Program.

While underwater noise is the focus of current work, the availability of prey is another of the anthropogenic threats identified through the ECHO Program. Brown indicates that this threat is considered in Port Metro Vancouver’s Habitat Enhancement Program. “We’re building fish and wildlife habitat through this program, which will enhance habitat for those species of fish, like the chinook salmon, that are preferred prey for the Southern Resident Killer Whales.”

Port Metro Vancouver continues to be an industry leader in environmental programs, working to ensure Canadians continue to enjoy a healthy environment and the benefits of trade for generations.

New Project and Environmental Review Process Launched

After two years of work, the revised Project and Environmental Review process is now in effect. The changes were informed by a series of recommendations contained in a consultant’s report completed in 2013, as well as on extensive stakeholder feedback. Under the Canada Marine Act, Port Metro Vancouver is responsible for the administration, management and control of land and water within its jurisdiction. To effectively manage these responsibilities, Port Metro Vancouver administers several permitting processes to ensure all developments and activities meet applicable standards and minimize environmental and community impacts. The Project and Environmental Review Process applies to all proposed physical works and activities on federal lands and waters partially or wholly within Port Metro Vancouver’s jurisdiction.

Launched in July 2015, the new process introduces project categories and outlines the timelines typically associated with each category of review. A new application guide and a set of guidelines have also been introduced. These include information about environmental requirements like storm water management plans, noise assessments and air emissions plans.