Victoria mayor, councillors propose limiting cruise ships to protect environment

The cruise industry injects millions of dollars into Greater Victoria's economy each year but as Kristen Robinson reports, the capital city wants to limit the number of ships in order to reduce emissions and waste.

Victoria’s mayor and two councillors have put forward a joint motion seeking to limit the number of cruise ships coming into the city over environmental concerns.

The motion set to be debated at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting recommends the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) keep cruise ship levels at current levels and not sign any new long-term contracts until the city’s concerns are met.

It also recommends asking staff to study the city’s “jurisdiction on regulations for the cruise ship industry with respect to waste and emissions.”

“In a climate emergency, the cruise ship industry must act to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable environment if it is to capture the social licence needed to operate in our city,” the motion submitted by Mayor Lisa Helps, Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Ben Isitt reads.

The motion comes after the city saw increased visible emissions from cruise ships this past summer, along with a high amount of waste from the ships ending up in capital regional district (CRD) landfills.


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According to the district, 150 tonnes of waste ended up at Hartland Landfill every month during the cruise ship season, accounting for one per cent of the landfill’s yearly intake.

A solution recommended in the motion is for the GVHA to aggressively install on-shore electrical power sources at the Victoria Cruise Terminal to help lower and eventually eliminate emissions.

On-shore power allows ships to turn off its diesel engines while plugged into a land-based electrical grid.

Helps noted the Port of Vancouver already required ships to plug into shore power. In 2018, the federal government and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority each committed $3.5 million towards building shore power infrastructure.

She also pushed back against critics who suggest the motion aims to shut down the local cruise ship industry entirely.

“If we were asking the cruise ship industry to shut down, then that would be the case,” she said. “We’re not talking about reducing the number of ships. The number has increased year over year. I would say that’s a non-argument.”


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The GVHA was not available for comment during the Thanksgiving long weekend.

In a statement posted on its website in January, the GVHA said it was working to find solutions to environmental concerns, including converting its shuttle bus fleet to become fully electric by 2022.

It also said it is encouraging walkability from the terminal to downtown via Fisherman’s Wharf and James Bay, which the council motion acknowledges.

The GVHA went on to say it is currently studying the benefits, costs and funding options for on-shore power, and has undertaken an environmental audit of the terminal.

The council motion asks the GVHA to present that study to council for review.

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