Commercial and recreational boaters have joined forces to protest a new yacht facility in Victoria, British Columbia. But the marina developer says visiting yachts would have minimal impact on the harbour, accounting for only a fraction of the annual traffic.

Marina developer Bob Evan told The Times Colonist that his C$20m 56-slip Victoria International Marina, for boats from 65ft-135ft, would account for only 0.36 per cent of total annual vessel movements in the harbour. Canada’s maritime agency, Transport Canada, calculated 400,000 vessel movements per year in 2007, while Evan says that superyachts would account for about four movements per day.

But opponents told the paper that they are more concerned about safety than the frequency of vessel movements. Barry Hobbis, managing director of Victoria Harbour Ferry Co, said that adding large recreational vessels could create safety risks to an already-busy harbour. It would require mariners who understand the “unique” traffic plan. “The issue is not volume. The issue is safe passage through an already narrow area of water,” Hobbis told the paper.

Harbour Ferries account for 90,000 movements per year, Hobbis said, and there are also multiple vessel types that include kayaks, local fishing fleet, cruise ships, whale-watching vessels, tugboats and seaplanes. Hobbis said he thinks non-professional yachtsmen visiting the harbour might cause accidents. Hobbis was joined by local paddling groups who plan to hold a protest in their sea kayaks. Other opponents complain that the marina will block harbour views and restrict access to the waterfront.

Evan says the marina would bring money to local businesses, and has been part of the Songhees development plan for years.

Opponents plan to stage a rally next Saturday. Evan will hold a press conference this week to get the “facts” of the proposal to the public. Canadian government officials must give approvals before any development begins.