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Research Project

Vessel Traffic in Canada’s Pacific Region

In this Report, You’ll Learn About

  • Ship movements, marine traffic patterns, and vessel density in Canada’s Pacific waters
  • The types of commercial vessels operating in or transiting through the region
  • The types and quantity of oil carried by ships – both as cargo and as fuel – on Canada’s Pacific Coast
  • The impact of seasonality and environmental protection measures on traffic density and patterns


Clear Seas contracted Nuka Research and Planning Group, LLC, to conduct a study to provide a clear, comprehensive picture of the commercial vessels operating in Canada’s Pacific region, their typical routes and behaviours, and the quantity and type of oil they carry. Among others, information and findings from this analysis will help better assess and understand risks associated with commercial shipping in Canada’s Pacific waters.

This study is the fifth body of work under Clear Seas’ Marine Transportation Corridors initiative undertaken to determine and describe risks related to commercial marine shipping activities in Canada, and to assist in marine spatial planning.

Key Takeaway

This study is, to date, the most current and comprehensive quantitative commercial vessel traffic analysis of Canada’s Pacific region made available to the public. It addresses existing knowledge gaps identified by Clear Seas through ongoing dialogue with First Nations, government officials, academics and industry.

The knowledge gained through this analysis can be used to support initiatives related to proactive vessel management and marine domain awareness, and to assess potential areas of friction in marine spatial planning.


Global trade defines the big picture for ship traffic.

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Trade routes are influenced by environmental protection.

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Bulk commodity exports and containers are the dominant traffic in Canadas’ Pacific region.

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Oil carried both as fuel and as cargo are potential pollution threats.

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Small ports play a big part in coastal traffic density.

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Canada’s waters offer a sheltered marine highway for tugs and their cargo.

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Cruise traffic brings oil to sensitive areas during the season.

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Statements & Quotations

“The increase in vessel traffic has a direct effect on our community, and other communities who live along the coast and have seen the foreshore erosion impacts. We have also seen a decrease in foods we can harvest due to contamination and toxins in the shellfish.”

– Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation

“The study provides a snapshot of marine trade and traffic in the region. We saw four major results emerge from the analysis: the drivers behind Canada’s trade, marine traffic patterns, the emerging importance of small ports and the threat of oil both as a cargo and fuel as possible pollutants.”

– Paul Blomerus, Executive Director, Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping

“The world of commercial shipping remains relatively opaque for many Canadians, even those living on the coast and in port communities. Beyond the easy recognition of cruise ships full of tourists, most people are hard pressed to tell the difference between an oil tanker and a bulk carrier loaded with grain.” (p.v)

Download Figures from the Report

(Click image to download)

Presentation of Results

Read the answers to questions that were not addressed during the webinar:

Research Team

Clear Seas team member Meghan Mathieson

Meghan Mathieson

Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization, Clear Seas

Jim Headshot

Jim Hodgson

Research Associate, Clear Seas

Tim Robertson Headshot

Tim Robertson

Principal Consultant, Nuka Research

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