Council chambers were full Thursday morning as workers from the cruise line industry gathered in support of ongoing discussions. Members from some local unions, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, were present while the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), the James Bay Neighbourhood Association (JBNA) and council workshopped ideas.
The discussion comes after Victoria put forward limiting requests on the cruise industry in October after it found it to be too environmentally damaging.
Discussions began with JBNA president Marg Gardiner, who also leads an emissions file on the industry.
“This year the increase in passenger counts increased by 21 per cent,” she said. “In the last 15 years it’s been up 150 per cent.”
In 2020 the GVHA expects its highest cruise call count to date, with 284 ships.
With this increase comes the potential of more greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the JBNA said, noting that while the City aims to reduce GHG by six per cent per year, cruise ships are slated to increase by seven per cent per year. The JBNA also argued that more ships meant more potential for environmental violations, citing that 10 ships which accounted for more than 40 per cent of visits in Victoria received air and water violations from the State of Alaska, where emissions are monitored.
“James Bay residents welcome tourists, we share our community,” Gardiner said. “But to gain social license the cruise industry needs to change, it needs to respect the community it visits and become good corporate citizens in the city.”
The GVHA followed by saying that efforts were continuing to be made to pare down GHG emissions and be more environmentally friendly. Steps include the recent hiring of an engineering consultant to investigate what would be required to install on-shore power adapters to run the ships while moored.
“Forty-five per cent of ship calls in 2018 were shore power capable, which is very promising,” said GVHA CEO Ian Robertson.
The report is due in the spring or summer of 2020, with most recent cost estimates for a single on-shore power adapter pegged at $12 million in 2012.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told Black Press Media that overall she was very satisfied with the meeting as ideas were exchanged.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in that room who didn’t agree on balancing environment and economy,” Helps said. “Our goal is to be the most sustainable destination in the world.”
While the union workers were present because they were fearful of losing their jobs, Helps seemed certain this wasn’t a real threat.
“No one is talking about those jobs going away,” she said. “The industry is responding and it’s about creating jobs in a more sustainable way.”