Freighter anchored off Saltair. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Freighter anchored off Saltair. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Paterson: Ships in our harbours bring economic benefit

Angst over freighters anchoring off Island’s south coast is misplaced

There has been some chatter in the past year or so, about the freighters that are anchoring along Vancouver Island’s southeastern coast.

As a country, we import a huge amount of amenities that help create the great quality of life we, at times, take for granted. In 2019, imports into Canada from China reached a trade value of around $44.5 billion, an increase from approximately $44.13 billion the previous year.

Sometimes this standard of living comes with certain drawbacks. It also happens when an area grows, new folks move in and their expectations are different than those of people that have lived in an area for a long time.

Canada needs an efficient marine transportation system. This system includes anchorages, which are vital to efficient shipping and navigation in the busy ports on our south coast.

Port Authorities assign and manage anchorages within their boundaries. When these anchorages and terminals are full, vessels must find another place to anchor until space becomes available. Ships in Canadian waters must adhere to safety and security rules and procedures (including light, noise, ballast water, etc.) at all times.

According to Transport Canada, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority assigns the anchorage according to a list of criteria and that anchorage is assigned based on the lesser agreeing to the guidelines in the protocol while these ships are waiting to load. More than 20 percent of the cargo they loaded was mostly produced here in B.C.

Now, some of these freighters are hauling grain and coal from elsewhere, but our provincial economy still stands to benefit from the shipping traffic and the jobs it creates in B.C.

The Canada/British Columbia Oceans Coordinating Committee said in a report that “…in 2005 ocean sector total impacts – direct industry, induced supplier plus induced consumer spending – from $11.6 in Gross Output were $10.9 billion in Gross Domestic Product, $7.4 billion in Labour Income and 166,200 person-years employment. These economic contributions represent 7-8 percent of the total B.C. economy.”

That’s a lot of jobs and good-paying jobs. Those jobs, as well as what the ships buy in the way of provisions locally, support our towns, and others, local economy and that creates jobs. In 2020, out of the top 15 trading partners Canada had, only two did not require marine vessels to send or receive economic goods.

I would guess that the freighters anchored near here are probably not a huge economic contributor in the big picture. But if we didn’t have spots for the vessels to harbour safely while they wait to load or unload where would that business go? They can go to other places such as Seattle, Los Angeles, other American ports on the west coast, then train or truck all our stuff up to British Columbia.

Not only will that greatly increase the price of so many consumer goods, as well as the cost of our exports, but the job losses will be devastating. I can also see the increase in greenhouse gases once we increase the amount of truck traffic on our highways. Over time as technology improves, systems get better and new methods of moving goods and services improve, this practice will probably change as well.

But for the time being, I don’t want to see us lose these jobs and the economic boost it creates.

Don (Duck) Paterson writes for the Ladysmith Chronicle. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Freighters overstaying welcome, but solutions exist, say Green MPs

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