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Anchored ships awaiting berths in backlogged port of Vancouver

Two ships anchor in Stuart Channel off Chemainus — part of a number believed to be awaiting berths in a crowded port of Vancouver. - Matthew Peterson
Two ships anchor in Stuart Channel off Chemainus — part of a number believed to be awaiting berths in a crowded port of Vancouver.
— image credit: Matthew Peterson

Large cargo ships off the coast of Chemainus are again raising a few eyebrows.

But unlike the ship under scrutiny during January’s uranium clean-up operation, this time the motivation is apparently economic, not safety.

About four to five ships (depending on the day) have regularly been anchored in the waters of Stuart Channel in recent weeks.

On Friday, March 18, a ship-tracking website listed some of the ships as the Don Frane Bulic, Kang Qiang, De Ming Hai and the Global Forwarder.

Most had their destinations set as Vancouver.

The Nanaimo Port Authority harbourmaster, Edward Dahlgren, said while he has no jurisdiction over the area and can't confirm why the ships are there.

But he knows things are backed up in Vancouver and speculates the ships are probably biding their time waiting for berths to open there.

“Vancouver is backed up for two reasons ... coal and grain,” said Dahlgren. “These ships are given their orders months ago. They arrive, if there’s not a slot, they have to wait.”

Coal was backed up because one of the loaders was down in one of the coal terminals, which has since been fixed said Dahlgren.

Recent flooding in Australian mines has also added to the pressures.

Droughts in major grain-producing nations has meant increased demand on Canadian grain, said Dahlgren, adding more pressure on Vancouver’s harbour.

“We are exceeding our normal exports,” said Dahlgren of the grain.

It is a positive story for Canadian exports, said Dahlgren, but added even snowfall in the Interior and avalanche concerns can slow operations up in Vancouver.

Dahlgren doesn’t believe the backlog has anything to do with what has happened in Japan.

“This chain of events started six months ago.”

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