Enhancing Marine Safety

March 21, 2014

The Government of Canada’s commitment to create a world-class marine tanker safety system through its plan for Responsible Resource Development is enhancing safety for shipping on both our east and west coasts. Canada’s current tanker safety system has served us well for many years. However, transportation of Canadian energy exports is expected to grow and create many high-quality jobs in Canada. It is essential that we strengthen our current system to meet future needs.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting both the safety of Canadians and the environment through its plan for Responsible Resource Development. The goal of its marine tanker safety system is to prevent incidents from happening, strengthen our response capacity and ensure that polluters, not taxpayers, are responsible for costs in the unlikely event of a spill. Through our actions to enhance marine tanker safety, we are establishing a world-class system so that oil and liquefied natural gas can be safety transported through Canada’s waterways before any major new energy export facilities become operational.

The Government of Canada announced a number of measures toward the creation of a World-Class Tanker Safety System.

Tanker Safety Expert Panel

The Government of Canada created a Tanker Safety Expert Panel to review Canada's current oil spill preparedness and response regime and to propose further measures to strengthen it

The Tanker Safety Expert Panel has now reported. The Government is consulting with stakeholders, including Aboriginal Peoples, on the report to inform next steps in building a world-class tanker safety system.

Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act

Tanker inspections

As of 2010, large crude oil tankers can no longer operate in Canadian waters without a double hull. A double hull is a type of hull where the bottom and sides of a vessel have two complete layers of watertight hull surface.

Transport Canada currently has a requirement for all Canadian-flagged tankers to be inspected at least once a year to ensure they are compliant with current legislation and regulations. The new measures will increase inspections of all foreign tankers to ensure Canada achieves its policy of inspecting each one on its first visit to Canada and annually thereafter.

Systematic aerial surveillance and monitoring of ships

A watchful eye is kept over ships transiting waters under Canadian jurisdiction through the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP). Three aircraft strategically placed across the country monitor shipping activities over all waters under Canadian jurisdiction using sophisticated state-of-the-art remote sensing equipment including Environment Canada’s Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution Program (ISTOP) – which can identify potential spills from satellite images.

Long-term funding will be provided to support NASP and the program will be enhanced to boost surveillance efforts in areas such as northern British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Incident Command System

The government will establish a Canadian Coast Guard Incident Command System, which will allow it to respond more effectively to an incident and integrate its operations with key partners. The Incident Command System is an internationally accepted emergency management system used for the command, control, and coordination of emergency response operations.

Pilotage programs

All tanker operators operating within a compulsory pilotage area must take on board a marine pilot with local knowledge. The boarding pilot's extensive knowledge of the local waterway can guide the vessel safely to its destination.

The Government of Canada will review the legal and voluntary measures currently in place to safely guide vessels to their destination. This review will determine what, if any, legislative and/or regulatory changes to the Pilotage Act or the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are needed. 

Public port designations

The Government of Canada will designate Kitimat as a public port under the Canada Marine Act. This designation will allow the port to put in place better traffic control measures to facilitate the safe movement of vessels. A national risk assessment will help to identify other ports for this designation as well.

Scientific research

The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.   The results of these scientific research projects will fortify Canada’s marine prevention, preparedness and response capabilities.

New and modified aids to navigation

Aids to navigation, hydrographic charts and safety information are important elements of Canada's marine navigation system. The Canadian Coast Guard will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained.

Modern navigation system

Relevant navigational information (e.g. charts, buoy status, weather, ice conditions, etc.) can now be made electronically available to vessels in real-time, if the right technology is available, thereby improving the safety and efficiency of marine transportation.

The Canadian Coast Guard will develop options for enhancing Canada's current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) for government consideration.

Liability and compensation

Canada’s liability and compensation regime for oil spills is based on the “polluter pays” principle, which means that the polluter is always responsible for paying for the cost of an oil spill clean up, including third party damages.

The concepts of polluter pays, international uniformity and shared liability between ship owners and cargo owners are cornerstones of the current liability and compensation regime, and will continue to be integral to it in the future.

The Government of Canada is committed to reviewing Canada’s liability and compensation regime and is taking further action to ensure that it has a world-class tanker safety system for shipping resources safely through Canada’s waterways before any major new energy export infrastructure becomes operational.

Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act)

The proposed amendments will:

  • strengthen the current requirements for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities;
  • increase Transport Canada's oversight and enforcement capacity by equipping marine safety inspectors with the tools to enforce compliance;
  • introduce new offences for contraventions of the Act and extend penalties relating to pollution; and
  • enhance response to oil spill incidents by removing legal barriers that could otherwise block agents of Canadian response organizations from participating in clean-up operations.

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