The paradise of Cowichan Bay has been turned into a freighter parking lot, forcing residents to deal with the clatter of dropping anchor chains, rumbling generators and the glare of floodlights that illuminate the vessels at night.
Many of the vessels are in the queue to load coal at Westshore Terminals, near Tsawwassen, which cut back operations after a Dec. 7 incident when a freighter rammed into a trestle leading to one of the two deep-sea berths.
On board at the time was a marine pilot from the Pacific Pilotage Authority. The cause of the 1 a.m. crash is under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
There were 10 vessels waiting to load coal at the time of the crash, said Dennis Horgan, vice-president and general manager of Westshore Terminals.
The pier taken out of commission handled 55 per cent of the coal output, Horgan said.
Vessels continued to arrive and were put out to anchor in sheltered waters until they could be accommodated. At one point, 16 ships were anchored awaiting loads, Horgan said.
There are now about 10 freighters anchored in areas such as Cowichan Bay and Plumper Sound near Pender Island but that situation is expected to ease soon.
“I’d anticipate by the end of the month we’ll have six or seven at anchor,” Horgan said.
“We’re still hoping that by mid-February, we’ll have the other berth back operating. I expect [the backlog] to improve from here, and I don’t anticipate it getting worse.”
This was the first major accident in Westshore Terminals’ 42-year history, Horgan said.
“The B.C. coastal pilots have brought ships in here under all kinds of wild weather,” he said.
The anchorage sites in Satellite Channel and Cowichan Bay have been in place for close to 50 years, said Jillian Glover, spokeswoman for Transport Canada.
“They are being used because all other anchorages in the Port of Vancouver and in the Gulf Islands are full,” she said in a statement.
© Copyright 2013