February 28, 2022 | Circular No. 11407

Dear Member,

As a follow up to the Voluntary Protection Zone (VPZ) trial (CL 11147) that was established off the West Coast of Haida Gwaii, this circular provides members with an update on the trial results and next steps for the VPZ.

The Federation has been involved for several years with this Proactive Vessel Management initiative under the Oceans Protection Plan and working closely with the Council of the Haida Nation, Transport Canada and other stakeholders. The objective of this pilot project is to ensure a higher probability of rescue for a vessel needing assistance, while taking into consideration the availability of the Canadian Coast Guard’s Emergency Towing Vessels.

The 14 month trial period ran from September 1, 2020 to October 31, 2021 during which time commercial vessels were requested to observe a minimum of 50nm off the west coast of Haida Gwaii.  Other sectors such as the Pacific Northwest trade and cruise ships were requested to maintain 25 and 12 nautical miles respectively.  The preliminary results of the trial were presented recently to the project committee.

The trial period data was compared to 2014-2016 AIS tracks to determine if vessel behaviors changed as a result of the VPZ.  The study concluded that overall, the VPZ resulted in commercial traffic moving farther offshore thereby increasing the amount of time required to resolve a vessel incident.

  • Cruise Ship and Pacific Northwest (Alaska Trade) participated at rates exceeding 96%
  • Vessels using the Great Circle Route participated 93% of the time, however winter weather impacted participation as some vessels entered the VPZ for weather avoidance
  • The IMO 2020 sulfur limits effective January 2020 resulted in a significant increase in the number of Great Circle vessels transiting through the offshore waters with a corresponding increase in the number of vessels entering the VPZ
  • Foreign flagged vessels visiting northern BC ports participated at a rate of 72% where many vessels cut through the corner of the VPZ when approaching Dixon Entrance

More details regarding the study statistics, findings and conclusions can be found in the Nuka Preliminary Results presentation.  We are still awaiting the final report from the trial.

As the trial ended in October 2021, the project committee continues to discuss the future framework for the VPZ.  In the meantime, vessels are requested to continue observing the 50 nautical miles unless it is unsafe to do so.

Finally, we wish to share the Letter of Recognition to the Federation and members for the successful trial period acknowledging the efforts of industry to develop, promote and implement the VPZ.

We will continue to keep you updated regarding this initiative and please direct any questions to the undersigned.


Chad Allen

Director, Marine Operations