Victoria mayor calls for regulation of cruise ship industry to reduce emissions and waste

Victoria's mayor and two councillors have tabled a motion asking for among other things a limit on cruise ships entering the city until a plan can be found to limit their emissions and waste.

Lisa Helps and councillors Marianne Alto and Ben Isitt tabled the motion which will go before council on Oct. 17.

It makes a number of recommendations, including having staff look into requiring cruise ships to use shore power while docked; having the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) report to council on the impact of the cruise ship operations on the environment; and not increasing the number of cruise ships coming to Victoria until emissions and waste issues are dealt with.

Shore power allows cruise ships to turn off their engines to reduce emissions while docked. Vancouver's Canada Place cruise ship terminal put shore power in place in 2009.

In February, the City of Victoria declared a climate emergency and directed staff to report back with an accelerated timeline to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The motion calls on the cruise ship industry to be part of that shift.

'Social license needed'

"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," it reads.

The GVHA says that Victoria's Ogden Point terminal is the busiest cruise ship port-of-call in Canada. Cruise tourism has grown from 110 ship calls carrying 161,000 passengers in 2002 to a record number of 250 cruise ships and 640,000 passengers during the 2018 season.

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The motion says that during the summer months a large amount of waste from cruise ships — 150 tonnes per month — is dumped at the Hartland landfill. The city says that makes up one per cent of all waste disposed of at the landfill.

"It is a significant amount of offshore waste dumped in our local landfill," said the motion.

GVHA disagrees with approach

Ian Robertson, CEO of the GVHA, says he is surprised and disappointed by the motion. He says that the authority is already taking steps to reduce emissions from the cruise ship industry.

"Where we agree is that more can be done, a lot has been done ... I think where we disagree is on the path forward and how we get there," he said.

"I was hoping the approach taken by the mayor would have been more collaborative."

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However, Mayor Helps say the GVHA's emission reduction target of 50 per cent by 2050 isn't good enough.

"That doesn't fit with [the] Paris Agreement, it doesn't fit with Victoria's goals either," she said.

Local business owner Al Hasham, who is also a director of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, says he is concerned the motion from Helps and the councillors, if passed, will hurt Victoria's economy. 

"We all care about climate change, we all care about the environment, but we take it in steps and make the right changes ...  that doesn't effect out economy and city," he said.

On Saturday, Robertson also seemed to indicate that Helps and the city may be overstepping its jurisdiction in trying to regulate the cruise ship industry.

"The property and the access to the port is operated and owned by the harbour authority. So it would be an interesting conversation if they wanted to do that," he said, "I hope we never get there."

The GVHA says it will share information about emissions at the terminal with city officials next week.