The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority continues to advance leading environmental programs in efforts to support its vision for the Port of Vancouver to be the world’s most sustainable port. The support and participation of customers and industry stakeholders is critical to the success of these programs, which are designed for habitat preservation, air and noise emissions reduction and energy conservation.

Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program update

For nearly eight years, marine carriers have been participating in key initiatives under the port authority-led ECHO program, a series of initiatives aimed at better understanding and managing the cumulative effects of shipping activity on at-risk whales.

The voluntary vessel slowdown trials and voluntary route alteration trials (or lateral displacement) trials have continued with success during the past several years, even amidst global interruptions to international shipping due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These voluntary initiatives help reduce underwater noise in key feeding areas for Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs). In 2020, a slowdown for marine carriers occurred in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass and an inshore lateral displacement for tug vessels took place in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. New for 2020, a slowdown also took place in Swiftsure Bank, located just off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. Strong support for the voluntary measures from the commercial shipping industry resulted in record participation rates of more than 80 per cent for all three initiatives. In 2020, these initiatives helped reduce underwater noise in approximately 47 per cent of SRKW critical habitat areas that directly overlap commercial shipping lanes.

For 2021, the same three trials were implemented, showing strong participation across all vessel types to-date. Of note, the cumulative participation rate in the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass slowdown is 92 per cent year-to-date July. The Juan de Fuca inshore lateral displacement trial for tug vessels, scheduled to end October 31, shows 84 per cent participation rate year-to-date July.  In its second year, the Swiftsure Bank slowdown trial will also run until October 31, and the Haro Strait slowdown trial will run as late as November 30, depending on whale presence. Total participation results will be made public when the trials conclude.

LNG Bunkering

Over the next decade, natural gas as a marine fuel in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to be adopted by shipping lines across several sectors that call on the port. To meet current and future needs of these vessels, the port authority is working with Fortis BC and the provincial government to have a LNG bunkering service available by 2024. The port authority is currently working to safely accommodate ship-to-ship bunkering operations by first understanding the risks, costs, and benefits associated with this type of marine fuel, reviewing the fuel’s economic viability in British Columbia and engaging key industry and government stakeholders for support. In preparing to offer LNG bunkering services at the port, the port authority is taking a number of actions to inform any procedure updates, including risk assessments, compatibility assessments and guidelines and protocols development that are aligned with international standards.

In the auto sector, the port’s terminals have recently welcomed the latest generation of environmentally-friendly car carriers, such as the NYK’s Sakura Leader, the first LNG-fuelled ship to call at Annacis Auto Terminal. The NYK Sakura Leader is one of the world’s largest car and truck carriers, handling approximately 7,000 vehicles per voyage. Sakura Leader has called the port three times since November 2020.  On April 30, 2021, the port also welcomed “K” Line’s Century Highway Green, a next-generation environmentally-friendly car carrier fuelled by LNG.

Blue Circle Awards and EcoAction Program

The port authority’s Blue Circle Awards recognize marine carriers and port tenants that excel in environmental stewardship. Since 2009, award winners have been recognized for their participation rates in the EcoAction Program, and the Energy Action Initiative since 2018. Nineteen recipients were recognized with 2020 Blue Circle Awards, including 13 shipping lines, four coastal marine operators and two terminal operators (tenants).

2020 award highlights include:

  • “K” Line and Westwood Shipping Lines have been awarded every year since the inaugural awards in 2009
  • Hapag-Lloyd has been recognized 11 times
  • HMM and Mediterranean Shipping Company have won this award for eight consecutive years since 2013
  • Evergreen Line has won this award for six consecutive years since 2015

The EcoAction and Energy Action Initiative are just a sample of several environmental programs that offer incentives to customers who choose to participate. Those who follow best practices outlined in the EcoAction Program, for example, are eligible for discounts on harbour dues—rebates which amounted to $1.6 million in 2020.

“We also want to acknowledge our cruise line customers, who have previously achieved the highest levels of participation in the EcoAction Program and have won multiple awards,” said Peter Xotta, vice-president of planning and operations at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “Although the cruise industry is still waiting until it’s safe to relaunch regular sailings, we look forward to celebrating their commitment to sustainable operations and protecting the environment in the near future.”

“We applaud our port terminals, shipping, and industry partners for their voluntary efforts to go above and beyond to follow environmental best practices, and in 2020 they did this during an exceedingly challenging year,” said Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. “Congratulations to all 2020 Blue Circle award recipients on your leadership to conserve energy and reduce air emissions at the Port of Vancouver.”

Northwest Ports Clean Air Alliance strategy renewal

The port authority is also working with ports in Washington State to mitigate the impact of port operations on air quality in the Pacific Northwest.

Originally in place since 2007, a full update to the Northwest Ports Clean Air Alliance strategy was conducted in 2020, developed in partnership with the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and the Northwest Seaport Alliance to reduce port-related emissions in the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound air shed. The strategy outlines a path toward transitioning port activities away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner, lower emission fuels and technologies. It supports implementing programs that promote equipment efficiency, phase out old high emissions emitting equipment, and the use of lower emission interim fuels. Central activities focus on facilitating collaboration to advance commercialization of zero emissions equipment and enable adoption before 2050 and collaborating with industry and government to identify and address key infrastructure constraints by 2030. The strategy also includes performance targets for each of the primary port emissions sources, including ocean-going ships, harbour boats, cargo-handling equipment, container trucks, locomotives and port administrative operations.

Conclusion

Customer and industry participation in the port authority’s environmental programs is instrumental in making efforts to reduce the impacts of port operations on the environment. Continued collaborative leadership in these areas will have a lasting impact on ensuring the Port of Vancouver continues to transform into the world’s most sustainable port.