Improving marine safety through the Oceans Protection Plan

From Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Space Agency, Department of National Defence

We are working with Indigenous and coastal communities, the marine industry and other stakeholders to develop and improve Canada's marine safety system. To do so, we have developed initiatives that are part of our $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. This plan is a national strategy to create a world-leading marine safety system. It provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines for future generations.

The Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made in Canada's coasts and waterways, and will:

  • improve marine safety and responsible shipping
  • protect Canada's marine environment
  • offer new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities

On this page

Alternative Response Measures

Canada’s current approach to managing ship-source oil spills uses mechanical tools, such as booms and skimmers, to contain and collect the oil.

The Alternative Response Measures initiative will expand the range of options available to respond to oil spills in the water. Alternative measures include techniques like burning the oil and using dispersants that reduce the concentration of oil. Measures like these have been used successfully in responding to major spills elsewhere in the world.

The overall goal of this initiative is to better protect Canada’s coasts and waterways by reducing the impact of an oil spill on the environment and other important resources.


As a trading nation, Canada needs an efficient marine transportation system. This system includes anchorages, which are vital to efficient shipping and navigation in Canada's busy ports.

Port Authorities assign and manage anchorages within their boundaries. When these anchorages and terminals are full, vessels must find another place to anchor until space becomes available.

Ships in Canadian waters must adhere to safety and security rules and procedures (including light, noise, ballast water, etc.) at all times. However, Canada has no formal process by which to identify anchorages and guide the behaviour of vessels anchored outside port boundaries.

We will work with other federal departments and levels of governments, Indigenous groups, coastal communities, the marine industry and stakeholders to:

  • develop a process to identify anchorages spots
  • analyze and respond to environmental, economic and cultural concerns now and over the long term
  • draft a manual of best practices for ships at anchor
  • propose oversight/management options for these anchorages

Information about anchorages

As a general rule of maritime law, masters are responsible for ensuring the safety of their vessels while at anchor and while selecting an anchorage. For example, they will consider the characteristics of the vessel and the prevailing weather conditions.

Commercial shipping anchorages are selected based on the following criteria:

  • quality of the holding ground for anchors
  • shelter from high winds
  • how close they are to shipping routes and port logistics

These criteria ensure the safety of vessels and their crew, as well as the safety of others on the water.

The right to anchor a vessel is part of the common law right of navigation. A vessel is allowed to anchor temporarily and for a reasonable period in any appropriate location, unless specifically prohibited by a law or regulation.

[PDF, 309 KB]

Arctic presence

The Canadian Coast Guard is proud to serve Northerners, and is always at the ready to provide search and rescue and emergency response services in the Arctic.

We also provide essential Arctic icebreaking services for commercial ships, ferries and fishing vessels in ice-covered Canadian waters. These services include:

  • providing vessel escorts
  • managing and coordinating harbour breakouts
  • maintaining shipping routes
  • providing ice information services

This work ensures safe navigation, prevents ice jams and flooding, and maintains open routes for commerce.

Through the Increased Presence and Extended Season in the Arctic project, the Canadian Coast Guard is extending icebreaking season in the Arctic and expanding our presence and services.

Arctic presence
[PDF, 134 KB]

Baseline environmental data on northern British Columbia's coast

Sound science for emergency response

Environment and Climate Change Canada is collecting baseline data to better understand the current environmental landscape of northern British Columbia. Working with our partners, we will use this information to make informed decisions supporting emergency preparedness and response.

Over the next five years, we will:

  • collect data on the physical characteristics of shorelines
  • update socioeconomic and ecological information
  • identify priority marine bird species, their distribution and abundance
  • work to understand the effects of oil on migratory bird species
  • gather local and traditional knowledge in collaboration with Indigenous peoples and communities

This initiative will gather and share information in many innovative ways, including:

  • using unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite imaging systems to map our coastlines
  • using computer modelling to study habitats of marine birds, and their risks of oil exposure
  • modernizing our national web-mapping application to support preparedness and response

Coastal Restoration Fund

Marine and coastal ecosystems around the world face irreversible changes and a decline in biodiversity.

The Coastal Restoration Fund will provide funding to protect and restore Canada’s coastal areas by focusing on important coastal environments and historically affected areas.

The fund will also support coastal restoration projects and initiatives to address threats to marine species.

Coastal Restoration Fund
[PDF, 280 KB]

Crude oil tanker moratorium in British Columbia

On May 12, 2017, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, to formalize an oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast.

Once passed, the Act will prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oils from stopping, loading or unloading at ports in northern British Columbia.

Examples of some of the oil products included in the schedule to the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act:

  • partially upgraded bitumen
  • synthetic crude oils
  • petroleum pitch
  • slack wax
  • bunker C fuel oil

The proposed moratorium extends from the Canada/United States border in the north, down to the point on B.C.'s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It also includes Haida Gwaii.

Cumulative effects of marine shipping

We want to have a better understanding of the effects of marine shipping on our coastal environment—past, present and future. To do so, we have created the Cumulative Effects of Marine Shipping initiative.

We are working with Indigenous and coastal communities to identify concerns and collect information about the environmental effects of marine shipping on our coasts.

We will collect information in 6 pilot locations. These locations have different types of shipping activities and coastal environments:

  • Northern British Columbia
  • Southern British Columbia
  • St. Lawrence River
  • Bay of Fundy New Brunswick
  • Southern Coast Newfoundland
  • Arctic Nunavut

This information will be used to create tools to assess and reduce the environmental effects of marine shipping. This work complements the Coastal Environmental Baseline Program.

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Enhanced maritime situational awareness

Local marine traffic around Canada's coasts continues to increase. As a result, coastal partners and stakeholders expect that more local maritime data will be shared in a way that meets their needs. While many sources of marine information exist, they are not well integrated nor easy to use.

A maritime awareness information system

Through this initiative, we will develop a user-friendly system that increases access to local maritime information for coastal partners and stakeholders.

This system will:

  • bring together various sources of data and information
  • use space-based Automatic Identification Systems data services

Access to this information will:

  • increase understanding of what is happening in local waters
  • give partners and stakeholders the tools to participate in marine safety, emergency response and environmental protection activities

To achieve this, we will:

  • meet and collaborate with partners and stakeholders
  • hold pilot projects in selected communities

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This information is also available in Inuktitut [PDF, 328 KB]

Pilotage Act Review

Marine pilotage is a service where marine pilots take control of a vessel to navigate it through Canada's ports, straits, lakes, rivers and other waterways.

Several areas across Canada are classified as "compulsory pilotage areas." Once a vessel enters a compulsory pilotage area it must, by law, have a Canadian pilot on board to guide its transit through the area.

The Pilotage Act was enacted in 1972, creating four Pilotage Authorities in Canada whose mandates are to establish, maintain and provide a safe, reliable and efficient pilotage service within their respective pilotage areas.

The Pilotage Act review aims to modernize elements of the Act and will focus on issues such as tariffs, service delivery, governance, new technologies and dispute resolution processes.

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Pilotage Act Review
[PDF, 337 KB]

Proactive vessel management

Indigenous partners and coastal communities want to play a more active role in managing vessel traffic in their local waterways.

The term "proactive vessel management" describes a more collaborative approach to working with these communities and stakeholders to manage local marine traffic issues. These issues include:

  • routing
  • speed
  • conflicts between waterway users
  • impacts to environmentally or culturally sensitive sites

As part of this initiative, we will develop national guidance for managing local traffic issues in the future.

To achieve this, we will:

  • seek input for the development of a national Proactive Vessel Management framework
  • bring together a range of participants including coastal communities, Indigenous partners, industry, provincial and municipal governments and non-governmental organizations
  • conduct pilot projects with local communities to further develop and evaluate the national framework

This information is also available in:


We are enhancing the TERMPOL review process. This will improve how we identify and reduce the risks that come with building and operating marine terminals.

TERMPOL, which is short for Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transhipment Sites, was established in the 1970s. This voluntary review process gives objective guidance to companies planning to build and operate a marine terminal system for the bulk handling of oil, chemicals and liquefied gases.

Why TERMPOL is important

Although TERMPOL is neither mandatory nor legally binding, it does play an important part in the federal government review of marine terminals and transshipment sites.

In fact, government authorities and other agencies often rely on TERMPOL to identify:

  • potential problems
  • opportunities for improvements
  • impacts on marine services and programs

A TERMPOL report includes:

  • findings that identify the risks related to navigation and marine operations
  • recommendations that suggest actions to enhance marine safety beyond regulatory requirements

This information is often used in:

  • environmental assessment permit processes, and
  • National Energy Board regulatory review processes

Next steps

We will enhance TERMPOL by:

  • meeting with communities and stakeholders to discuss the current review process, service delivery, concerns and future needs
  • considering options and new approaches to improve navigation safety assessments
  • exploring the creation of a new navigation safety data and analysis unit

[PDF, 328 KB]

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