Lights and noise still a concern among freighters, but biggest offender removed

A number of container ships dropped anchor off Saltair and Chemainus last week to wait out a backlog at Port Metro Vancouver. Yoss Leclerc, harbourmaster and director of operations and security with PMV, said delays were due to “a combination of factors.” - Nick Bekolay
A number of container ships dropped anchor off Saltair and Chemainus last week to wait out a backlog at Port Metro Vancouver. Yoss Leclerc, harbourmaster and director of operations and security with PMV, said delays were due to “a combination of factors.”
— image credit: Nick Bekolay

The biggest culprit for noise and lights has been removed so complaints about freighters anchored in the Cowichan Bay area aren't being heard as frequently.

It's not a Cowichan Valley Regional District issue, but Cowichan Bay representative Lori Iannidinardo received plenty of feedback from residents unhappy with the racket created by the numerous freighters that are part of a long queue waiting to load either grain or coal in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet.

The Aqua Princess from Greece was the worst offender and it finally got moved by the Chamber of Shipping, a non-profit group from Vancouver that's been dealing with the slew of foreign ships currently scattered in domestic waters.

"They've done a good job for us with that particular one,'' said Iannidinardo. "They have to respect the coastal communities.

"Their generators ran 24/7, the lights and everything. The Princess was so annoying.''

Iannidinardo said residents in the Kingscote Road area dealt with the brunt of the concerns pertaining to noise, lights and air quality.

"I'm quite a ways from Kingscote. I actually heard it and I can see the light.''

A smaller vessel has since been put in the Aqua Princess' place.

Iannidinardo said it isn't unusual for freighters to be backlogged in Cowichan Bay this time of year.

"It's weather dependent,'' she said.

Damage to a coal dock in Vancouver is holding things up even more so the backlog isn't expected to ease anytime soon.

"Everyone's in queue and they're all in queue to get to Vancouver,'' said Iannidinardo. "Cowichan's a last resort. Nanaimo is full, everyone's full.''

Dan Daigle lives on Kingscote and said it's been a nightmare since before Christmas trying to find out who was responsible for the disruptions to residents emanating from the freighters' presence. He spent six days phoning around trying to get some answers and received a constant runaround.

The Nanaimo Port Authority told him to phone the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry of Transport told him to phone the Nanaimo Port Authority.

He was eventually directed to Steven Brown from the Chamber of Shipping.

"There's no one that will categorically state we're in control of these ships,'' said Daigle.

Daigle also put in calls to the Duncan-North Cowichan RCMP, but was told it couldn't do anything because it only has one boat available for the entire island.

Daigle said he left a message with MP Jean Crowder and heard from her a day later.

"She said this has been a problem for five years.''

There are about seven or eight anchorages between Cowichan Bay and Mill Bay, Daigle said. He said a new ship showed up Monday just before 11 p.m. that created a disturbance.

"If you've ever heard an anchor dropping, it's like a freight train coming through your front room,'' Daigle said.

"They keep saying these are anchorages that have been around for a long time. They're not the same. They're so close. They're so tight in there.''

Daigle sees the constant freighter traffic in the region as just the tip of the iceberg.

"The point of it is shipping is growing on the Pacific Coast and it's continuing to grow. The problem is going to continue to get worse.''

Problems are going to result just because the anchorages are being used more often, Daigle said.

"One, they're unmonitored. Ships that don't want scrutinizing will use them and, two, there is a lot more traffic. It's a phenomenon of growing trade and commerce across the Pacific.''

"It's not I don't want the freighters,'' stressed Iannidinardo of the commerce benefits.

But the other problems with noise, light and air quality need to be controlled.

And there are still people who, quite frankly, like seeing the ships on the water.

"I've had emails complaining now that I'm complaining about the freighters,'' said Iannidinardo.

"Most of them are a dull roar,'' said Daigle. "The lighting is becoming more of an issue than the diesel generators.''

The lights leave kind of an orange glow, he said, and ships seem to be dropping anchor more often at night than during the day.

"I'm starting to feel the biggest problem is we're not on top of the situation,'' said Daigle.

Anchorages need to be changed, he said, and border security tightened.


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