Safe Shipping

photo by: Chris Teren

At the heart of the Salish Sea, the San Juan Islands are surrounded by increasingly busy shipping lanes.

The Salish Sea is one of the world’s largest and most biologically rich inland seas—it is home to more than 8.7 million people, and the population is expected to increase to over 10.5 million people by 2040.1

Vessel Traffic in the Salish Sea

In 2020, there were 10,480 large, commercial ocean-going vessel transits in the Salish Sea. These vessel transits do not include local barge traffic, anchoring, queuing, and/or bunkering (ship fueling) transits; or the many ferry boat transits and the pleasure, fishing, and small commercial boats that share these transboundary waters. This existing commercial vessel traffic causes noise impacts and oil spill risk, threatening the shores of our communities and the fragile marine waters that are home to 125 threatened and endangered species, including the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Friends of the San Juans’ latest Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections Report identifies 22 recently constructed and proposed or permitted port and refinery projects that would add at least 2,634 annual vessel transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington State. Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project and the Port of Vancouver’s proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 account for 46% of the quantified projected increase in vessel traffic.

If all of the proposed new and expanding terminal and refinery projects are permitted and developed, this would result in at least a 25 percent increase in large, ocean-going commercial vessel traffic. Click here to read more about these projections.

Over-Water Oil Transfer Operations in Washington State

A major oil spill in our region would be devastating. So much is at risk—environmental, economic, and cultural resources, the endangered Southern Resident killer whales, and more.

Transferring oil to and/or from vessels over the water is one of the ways that oil spills can occur. Friends is monitoring oil transfer operations in the Salish Sea. With data in hand, we are advocating for stronger oil spill prevention and mitigation requirements.

Friends of the San Juans has created an interactive tool to make data easier for the public to learn about oil transfer operations that occur in Washington State. It is our hope that this tool will increase community engagement and advocacy for stronger environmental protections in rulemakings and other regulatory updates.

Latest Safe Shipping News


1 Canada – U.S. Cooperation in the Salish Sea: 2021-2024 Action Plan,

I feel like I have found the home that I could not find anywhere else I have traveled and lived. Thank you, Friends of the San Juans, for protecting all of the islands and the Salish Sea.

Janet Burke

member, Henry Island