To realize its vision of becoming “the world’s most sustainable port,” the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority continues to collaborate with industry to maintain a healthy environment. The port authority has a number of programs and strategies 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. Consistent industry participation in these initiatives serves as an example of collaborative leadership contributing to a more sustainable port.
The EcoAction program, launched in 2007, offers discounts on harbour dues to vessels meeting voluntary environmental best practices that reduce emissions, underwater noise and other environmental impacts. Ships can obtain up to 47 per cent off the basic harbour due rate, depending on the adoption of voluntary best practices. These practices include obtaining third-party environmental designations and using cleaner fuels and technologies. On January 1, 2017, the port authority added new incentive criteria to the EcoAction program to include harbour due rate discounts for quieter ships. This makes Canada the first country in the world with a marine noise reduction incentive.
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 industry partners that excel in environmental stewardship and attain the highest level of participation in the port authority’s EcoAction program, in 2009 the port authority launched the Blue Circle Awards. This year, 19 recipients were honoured for the 9th annual Blue Circle Awards. For the first time, the port authority recognized two Blue Circle Award winners under the Energy Action Initiative for achieving specific energy conservation targets. A new category was also introduced for coastal marine operators participating in the EcoAction program, with three Blue Circle award winners recognized under this category, alongside cruise and cargo vessel operators.
The Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program (ECHO) is an ongoing port authority-led initiative that aims to better understand and develop solutions to reduce the impact of shipping activities on at-risk whales along the southern B.C. coast. Some threats to whales in this region include underwater noise, ship collisions, environmental contaminants, and availability of prey. Since 2014, the ECHO Program has been working collaboratively with scientists, shipping industries, conservation and environmental groups, First Nations individuals and government agencies.
In 2017, a voluntary vessel slowdown trial in Haro Strait, a key feeding area for the endangered southern resident killer whale population, demonstrated that reducing vessel speeds is an effective way of reducing the underwater noise which may in turn benefit the behaviour and feeding ability of the southern resident killer whale. More than 60 organizations took part during the two-month voluntary trial and the total vessel participation rate was 61 per cent.
Building on the first successful vessel slowdown trial, a second similar voluntary slowdown is currently underway, which began in July and will conclude between mid-September and the end of October, depending on southern resident killer whale presence. To-date, slowdown participation rates are demonstrating increased industry support across the various vessel sectors. The port authority greatly values the partnership and participation of the shipping industry in these voluntary underwater noise reduction initiatives.
Shore power has the potential to reduce ship engine noise and air emissions by allowing ships to shut off their diesel-powered auxiliary engines and connect to the hydroelectric grid while at berth. Cruise ships have been able to connect to shore power at Canada Place cruise terminal since 2009. To further reduce emissions within the Port of Vancouver, shore power connections for container vessels will soon be available at two container terminals. Shore power facilities are now installed at Centerm terminal, which is the first container shore power system in Canada adhering to current international standards for container ships. Additionally, the installation of shore power at Deltaport terminal’s third berth is expected to be complete in fall 2018.
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, the port authority will continue working with the port community to adopt sustainability best practices as it continues to responsibly manage future growth.