Sustainability is a central part of Port Metro Vancouver’s vision and a significant focus for the organization. Earlier this year, the Port issued its fourth Sustainability Report, which outlines the port’s social, environmental and economic performance for 2013. Highlights include Port Metro Vancouver’s 2013 launch of its Sustainable Gateway Initiative, with a purpose to define what a sustainable gateway looks like and integrate this definition into their business. This initiative builds on both the port’s scenario planning process that began in 2010, called Port 2050, and the port’s Land Use Plan Update that started in 2012. Two phases of engagement sought input from customers, industry, supply-chain stakeholders, government, First Nations, communities, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions, to develop a definition and identify important considerations when integrating this concept into the port’s planning and operational activities. According to Carrie Brown, Director of Environmental Programs, the definition will be finalized and integrated into Port Metro Vancouver’s business plan by the end of 2014. “And we already have ideas about how to move forward in 2015,” she says, “in terms of conceiving a framework for integrating the definition into the broader gateway.”

Updates to air action initiatives

While the Sustainable Gateway Initiative takes a broader approach to defining environmental sustainability, work continues on several projects designed to help industry stakeholders mitigate more specific impacts on the local and regional environments, and on local communities. For example, the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (NWPCAS), a core component of Port Metro Vancouver’s Air Action Strategy, was updated in 2013 and includes more aggressive emission-reduction performance goals for port-related sources. The NPCAS represents a cooperative effort amongst Port Metro Vancouver, Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle, to improve air quality and reduce contributions to climate change.

Data used to measure actual emissions levels against NWPCAS targets is compiled in a port-wide emissions inventory, which is itself in the process of being updated. Inventory methodologies and framework for the presentation of data will be formulated over the next year. “We’ll start to work with our stakeholders and tenants, preparing for the types of questions we’ll be asking them and the 2015 data we’d like to collect from them,” says Brown. She adds that Port Metro Vancouver’s 2015 emissions inventory is scheduled for publication in late 2016, to coincide with Metro Vancouver’s emissions inventory and Environment Canada’s marine vessel emissions inventory.

The EcoAction Program, revised in 2013 and now in its seventh year, encourages the adoption of emission reduction measures by offering discounted harbour dues to participating vessels. Carriers that demonstrate the greatest commitment to the program are awarded a Blue Circle Award. In 2013, the port welcomed 521 vessels that participated in the EcoAction Program, a 12 per cent increase to 2012 participation levels, and a 55 per cent increase from 2011.

The Non-Road Diesel Initiative, to take effect in the new year, is aligned with a Metro Vancouver bylaw No. 1161 passed in January 2012 and addresses high levels of diesel particulate emissions from older cargo-handling equipment. The initiative, which has involved two years of consultation with government and industry, including terminal operators, is designed to promote the phasing out of older high-emissions equipment and the adoption of clean technology as well as reduced idling. Equipment that does not meet these standards is subject to fees commensurate with those paid through Metro Vancouver’s program and are reimbursable once the emissions target has been met.

Environmental review process

Reviews of on-land project proposals administered by Port Metro Vancouver have been a cornerstone of Port Metro Vancouver’s stewardship since the early 1990s. These reviews ensure that the level of review is appropriate given the associated level of environmental risk. With continuous improvement in mind and an interest in increasing transparency, an assessment of the port authority’s environmental and project review processes began in early 2014. The review and renewal of this process also follows recent changes to legislation, including the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and also considers a series of recommendations provided in a third-party assessment of the existing procedure. The recommendations reflect comments and observations regarding transparency, fees, Aboriginal consultation, consistency in drafting decisions, and compliance monitoring, among other things. While some of the simpler recommendations have already been implemented, work is ongoing for others.

Looking ahead

Environmental programs for the gateway will focus on issues of growing concern around the region, specifically the impact of underwater noise on marine life, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The new Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program, launching in late 2014 or early 2015, is the first step in addressing the impacts of the growing volume of vessel traffic on resident killer whales (a type of cetacean) and the intersection of shipping routes with critical habitat. The program supports a series of research and management initiatives assessing some of the local threats faced by cetaceans. Port Metro Vancouver will lead the development of a steering committee, comprising scientists, government agencies and a range of stakeholders who will oversee these initiatives. Results of these projects will inform a wide range of local and regional programs aimed at helping prevent, mitigate and manage the impacts of commercial marine traffic on killer whales along the southern coast of B.C.

Also related to the growth of vessel traffic through the region is the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. According to Brown, staff are currently looking at additional ways to help port stakeholders reduce emission levels. “We’re looking to develop a strategy to help us meet this challenge.” She adds that changes would be introduced no sooner than 2015.

Kudos for our Leadership in Sustainability

Recognition of Port Metro Vancouver’s leadership role in championing sustainability continues to come from many corners. Recent accolades include ranking fourth on the Corporate Knights’ first Future 40 Responsible Corporate Leaders in Canada, which is based on performance related to 12 sustainability indicators. Add to that the acclaim for EcoAction offered by none less than Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room. “Under the Canada Marine Act,” says Brown, in response to the recognition, “we have a mandate and this includes facilitating the movement of goods and doing so in ways that are environmentally responsible and mindful of the communities in which we operate. This is our focus and to be recognized as a leader certainly makes us proud.“