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Trucks hauling shipping containers wait in a queue at the Port of Vancouver, on Sept. 3, 2020.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The Transportation Safety Board says the Port of Vancouver may be close to exceeding its ability to safely handle large container ships.

The safety board issued the caution in a report into a January, 2019, incident where the container vessel Ever Summit hit a crane while being piloted into the Vanterm terminal in the Port of Vancouver.

The crane arm collapsed over the stern of the ship, damaging the vessel and berth.

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The report says the pilot sent incorrect orders to two tugs assisting the ship into berth, and a lack of standardized communications between the pilot, ship’s crew and tug captains compounded the problem.

The safety board also raises concerns about the increasing size of container ships worldwide, and the need to upgrade port infrastructure to safely handle such large vessels.

The report says there’s been an “absence of any oversight” from Transport Canada and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the agency responsible for Vancouver’s port, for the suitability of vessel berths in Canada’s busiest port.

“The Board is concerned that the size of vessels may exceed the Port of Vancouver’s terminal infrastructure capacity to accommodate them safely,” the report says.

The board’s report says without upgrades to existing infrastructure, the larger vessels necessitate berthing manoeuvres that have “little tolerance for error.”

Since the incident, the board says British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., the independent body that oversees ship pilots in the province, has developed standard communication procedures for use between pilots and tugs.

The report also says the Port of Vancouver and Vanterm, one of the 29 terminals operating within the port, have reviewed crane storage practices to ensure arriving and departing ships are less likely to clip the equipment.

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