One of the more complex harbours in Canada

One of the more complex harbours in Canada

Marinas help keep economy afloat

Region remains a hub for boating activity

With moorage for thousands, Greater Victoria is a major hub for boating activity.

More than two decades ago the Department of Fisheries and Oceans turned its marinas over to local jurisdictions, most are run on a non-profit basis.

“The idea of the small craft harbour program was to provide safe harbour for fishing boats that they could travel to within a day,” says Tsehum Harbour manager Janet Rooke.

Many, like Tsehum Harbour in Sidney and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority are run by volunteer boards.

“The federal government still owns our facility, we just lease it for $1 a year,” Rooke says. “The GVHA deals with millions in revenue each year. It’s a much bigger operation. But all the little docks around Greater Victoria, the Gulf Islands, the lakes, are run by the community.”

The GVHA land was formerly owned by Transport Canada and divested to the city in 2002. It’s run by a 14-member board of volunteers and community representatives that promote the working harbour.

“The Inner Harbour of Victoria is one of the most complex harbours in Canada,” says Sonterra Ross, GVHA chief operating officer.

The land surrounding the harbour is owned by a multitude of parties and there are various levels of authority within that structure. “It’s an interesting piece of water,” Ross says.

More than 50 per cent of the GVHA’s revenue comes from cruise ship traffic.

“Any surplus is invested right back in. Over the last 10 years we’ve invested $15 million,” Ross says. Over the next five years, the harbour authority will invest approximately $9 million in infrastructure.

“The marine infrastructure we have is very costly to maintain,” she says. The cruise ship piers, fuel dock and Fisherman’s Wharf are scheduled for replacement over the next five to 10 years at a cost of $3 million to $10 million.

Last year had the highest number of cruise ships in Victoria port, bringing more than 500,000 passengers and 200,000 crew. This year will see 211 cruise ships bring some 466,000 passengers and 200,000 crew to the city.

“There is a large (economic) impact from the cruise industry,” Ross says. “It’s not just what the passengers and crews spend, it’s the stevedoring, bus companies, restaurant and hospitality – there is a huge domino effect.”

The spin-offs from our dozens of marinas is significant, Rooke adds. “It’s a huge industry. The money spent is incredible and not a lot of people recognize that.”

More than 30 per cent of GVHA’s revenue comes from its marina operations, with moorage alone bringing in more than $1 million a year.

“We keep our facilities open to the public and marine community for community events like dragon boating, harbour festival and night market,” Ross says. “The cruise industry really helps subsidize the marinas and helps the integration between community events and moorage.”

While moorage has declined over the past few years, Ross says they are beginning to see a come back.

“Victoria was created because of the water. It has a huge impact on industry, recreation and the community.”