British Columbia

Nanaimo port expansion pitch worries Gulf Islanders

People on Gabriola Island are worried a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Nanaimo Port Authority will make it easier to turn the area into a freighter parking lot.

Gabriola residents say move could be step toward parking spots for freighters next to island

People on Gabriola Island worry giving the Nanaimo Port Authority jurisdiction over the area is another step towards ships anchoring next to the island. (Teekay Offshore)

People on Gabriola Island are worried a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Nanaimo Port Authority will make it easier to turn the area into a freighter parking lot.

Residents on Gabriola Island have been fighting a plan from the Pacific Pilotage Authority of Canada to put five freighter anchorages off the northeast end of the island. 

They believe a push from the Nanaimo Port Authority to have jurisdiction over the area is another step towards ships anchoring next to the island.

"I think it is reasonable to assume that will be the consequence if this area does become part of a port," said Mary Collyer with the Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society.

Residents are concerned about the impact of the proposed anchorages on the marine environment and tourism.

Port pitches expansion

The Nanaimo port confirms it is seeking to extend its jurisdiction, but only to ensure that any future freighter parking receives proper oversight.

"The Nanaimo Port Authority is not aggressively changing our boundaries or supervision," said Bernie Dumas, president and CEO.

"We are making a recommendation to the marine industry that these anchorages should have some oversight to them."

There is little oversight on existing freighter anchorages in the southern Gulf Islands because they do not fall under the supervision of a port authority, Dumas said.

An environmental assessment of the  anchorage plan from the Pacific Pilotage Authority of Canada is expected to be ready in May. The agency says the new anchorage space is needed, partly because ships are getting larger.

It will be up to Transport Canada to decide if the freighter parking goes ahead, and whether the boundaries of the Nanaimo Port Authority will be extended, Dumas said.

Residents of Gabriola are concerned that freighters anchoring off their island will cause environmental damage.