Voluntary Shipping Protection for Haida Gwaii

Photo Credit: Allan Wilson

Submitted by CHN Marine Planning

In June 2020, the Council of the Haida Nation, Transport Canada, the shipping industry, Gwaii Haanas, and others, agreed to implement a 14-month trial Voluntary Shipping Protection Zone that started on September 1, 2020. The zone is part of the CHN’s Safe Distance Offshore project aimed at keeping large vessels sufficiently far offshore the Daawxuusda West Coast of Haida Gwaii to ensure adequate response time and prevent accidents.

Since 2018, the CHN and Transport Canada have been working together on this issue through the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection. In 2014, the Russian cargo vessel, Simushir, came 5.6 nautical miles from the Daawxuusda of Haida Gwaii in a winter storm after losing power. According to then President, kil tlaats ‘gaa  Peter Lantin, the event came as “a brutal eye-opening experience” for the nation.

See On Luck and a Prayer: http://www.haidanation.ca/?p=568  

For the last two years, CHN Marine Planning Program and Transport Canada have worked closely with the shipping industry, Nuka Research, and Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Shipping, to conduct a vessel drift and shipping traffic analysis and develop potential measures.

In December 2019, the CHN recommended a safe distance of 50 nautical miles offshore based on a high (at least 99%) likelihood of an effective response if a vessel were to lose propulsion and start drifting towards Haida Gwaii. This distance requires the two current Emergency Towing Vessels Atlantic Eagle and Atlantic Raven remain in place.

Yesterday, CHN and Transport Canada jointly announced the start of a trial Voluntary Protection Zone for Shipping.

“The Council of the Haida Nation has advocated for a Safe Distance Offshore since the Russian cargo vessel, Simushir, lost power during a storm event in 2014 and came dangerously close to grounding on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. The vessel traffic analysis we undertook shows that 50 nm would allow adequate response time to prevent accidents with the presence of two dedicated emergency tow vessels. The increased vessel traffic around Haida Gwaii is a concern for the Haida Nation.  We have worked collaboratively with Canada for over four decades on Haida Gwaii and we’re committed to continue this work with Transport Canada to prevent current and future shipping impacts.  The voluntary measures are a step in the right direction, yet we have much work to do together to protect the coastlines of Haida Gwaii to the highest standards.” – Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President, Council of the Haida Nation (September 4, 2020 Press Release)

Vessels 500 gross tonnage or greater are being asked to observe a minimum of 50 nautical miles off the Daawxuusda. Exceptions apply to large cruise ships, which are asked to observe a minimum distance of 12 nautical miles from shore, and vessels transiting between Pacific Northwest ports (Washington, BC and Alaska), which are asked to observe a minimum distance of 25 nautical miles from shore. Tugs and barges (including pushing and towing alongside), and fishing vessels are fully exempt. Laden oil tankers already adhere to the Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, established in 1985, traveling at least 73 nautical miles offshore of Haida Gwaii.

This trial is an improvement from the status quo and is a step in the right direction to prevent marine accidents. It is also a partial realization of recent commitments made by CHN and Canada in the Gwaii Haanas Gina ‘Waadluxan KilGuhlGa Land-Sea-People Plan. Marine Planning staff will continue to monitor shipping traffic and analyze adherence to the Voluntary Protection Zone, and work with Transport Canada and the shipping sector to find a long-term solution.

Look for project updates here: http://haidagwaii-vpz.ca/

For more information on marine shipping and other CHN Marine Planning initiatives, go to:  www.haidamarineplanning.com

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