Canada has the world’s longest coastline, at more than 243,000 kilometres. Each year, 80 million tonnes of oil are shipped off Canada’s east and west coasts. On any given day, there are 180 vessels (ships known as “SOLAS vessels,” or those over 500 tonnes gross tonnage that operate internationally) operating within Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles from shore).
Transport Canada works in a number of ways to protect Canada’s waters from ships’ pollution, and to help ensure that marine transportation is safe and efficient.
The Government of Canada aims to prevent spills through regulatory oversight, inspections, and enforcement measures. Transport Canada’s regulations and standards fall under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Arctic Waters Pollution Protection Act, combined with international regulations established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). These provide the framework for the department's comprehensive marine safety inspection and enforcement programs.
The Government of Canada is well prepared for and ready to respond to marine accidents from ships in Canadian waters. Ship-source oil spill prevention, preparedness, response and recovery are undertaken in a collaborative “whole-of-government” approach. Key federal departments work with private industry, as well as provincial and municipal governments, to ensure an incident is responded to in a coordinated manner.
Port State Control (PSC) is a Transport Canada ship inspection program that involves boarding and inspecting foreign vessels, such as oil tankers, entering Canadian ports to ensure they comply with major international maritime conventions.
The international Port State Control agreements, to which Canada is a signatory, require Transport Canada to inspect foreign vessels. Vessels that do not meet safety standards are detained until their deficiencies have been corrected.
Transport Canada has an ongoing commitment to target high-risk vessels entering Canadian ports.
Under the Port State Control inspection program, chemical tankers, gas carriers, oil tankers, bulk carriers and ships more than 12 years old undergo an expanded inspection of their overall condition, as well as the working conditions of the crew.
Inspectors look at:
In 2010, a total of 1,082 Port State Control inspections were carried out, including those of 473 tankers (these include oil tankers, chemical tankers, gas carriers and tankers carrying other liquids, e.g., water). Of these, four chemical tankers were detained. (For the reasons of detention please visit the online Detention List). The number of tanker inspections exceeded bulk carrier inspections by 30 per cent.
Inspection by location in Canada from 2006 to 2010 is found on page 6 of the Port State Control: 2010 Annual Report.
Regulations, voluntary measures and compliance activities, based on international standards and proven best practices from around the world, are focused on preventing tanker accidents.
Several regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 help ensure vessels navigate safely in Canadian waters. Vessels must have the appropriate navigation equipment, follow navigational rules and procedures, and have effective means of communication.
For example, vessels must:
All cargo vessels in Canadian waters must be equipped with the navigation and radio communications equipment required under international agreements. Each item of equipment must also meet detailed international standards. To ensure compliance, vessels are subject to regular inspections and must have valid inspection certificates that show their navigation equipment (Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate) and radio equipment (Cargo Ship Safety Radio Certificate) meet all requirements.
For the safety and protection of the marine environment, the Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 have established Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) zones along Canada’s east and west coasts out to the limit of its territorial sea. Shipping in these zones is monitored by the Canadian Coast Guard’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS). Any ship of 500 tonnes gross tonnage or more must report to an MCTS officer 24 hours before entering the VTS zone, and report prescribed information about the ship and its intended route, including any pollutant cargoes and defects. Vessels subject to the Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations may not enter a VTS zone unless they receive clearance from an MCTS officer. This allows any safety or environmental concerns to be addressed before ships enter Canadian waters. Vessels within the zone must also make regular reports at specified calling-in points. Monitoring vessel traffic within a VTS zone allows MCTS officers to provide information services that help on-board navigational decision making. Most large vessels are also required to be fitted with an automatic identification system (AIS). MCTS centres are able to make use of AIS to facilitate monitoring of marine traffic. AIS automatically provides information, including the ship’s identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and other safety-related information, to AIS-equipped shore stations, other ships and aircraft. These ships can also automatically receive such information from similarly fitted ships. Vessel routing measures help address safety and/or environmental concerns arising from vessel traffic. They can be useful where marine traffic density is high because they help organize traffic or direct traffic to avoid a hazard or an environmentally sensitive area. Developing and adopting a particular routing measure will depend on the hazard and will involve consultations with the marine industry, as well as, in some cases, international agreement. Routing measures include:
An example of a voluntary routing measure is the Tanker Exclusion Zone on the West Coast.
In 1985, a voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone was created along the British Columbia coast. This zone applies to loaded oil tankers servicing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System between Valdez, Alaska, and Puget Sound, Washington. The Tanker Exclusion Zone extends from the shores of British Columbia westward. The zone was determined by calculating the worst case scenario using the drift rate of a disabled laden tanker and the time required for a suitable assist tug to arrive on scene. This exclusion zone was established through joint discussions of the Canadian Coast Guard and the United States Coast Guard with the American Institute of Merchant Shipping before the National Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime was developed.
More than 300 tankers transit annually along the B.C. coast while respecting the Tanker Exclusion Zone (only laden tankers must stay west of the zone; tankers in ballast may transit within the zone). It is important to note that the Tanker Exclusion Zone does not apply to tankers travelling to or from Canadian ports.
There is a federal moratorium on oil and natural gas exploration and development. There is no moratorium on tanker operation in Canada’s western waters. Oil tankers have been moving safely and regularly along Canada’s West Coast for many years.
The Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 require any tanker built after July 6, 1993, to be double hulled to operate in Canadian waters. A double hull is a type of hull where the bottom and sides of a vessel have two complete layers of watertight hull surface.
Tankers that are not double hulled are being gradually phased out. For large crude oil tankers, the phase-out date for single-hulled vessels was 2010, so such vessels can no longer operate in Canadian waters. For smaller tankers, the phase-in period for double-hulled vessels ranges up to the end of 2014, depending on the size and age of the vessels. The International Maritime Organization phase-in period for double-hulled tankers worldwide will be fully implemented in 2015.
Marine pilotage involves a mariner with extensive knowledge of a local waterway and its ports boarding a vessel to guide it safely to its destination.
Canada’s many waterways and the diversity of its coastlines and coastal communities make expert pilotage a necessity. Professional pilots need to know as much as possible about the navigation route along which they are guiding a vessel, including the latest charts and weather conditions, currents, subsurface characteristics, and the infrastructure of the ports they are guiding vessels to and from. They must be expert in the handling characteristics of the vessels they are guiding, be able to accurately judge vessel approaches into a port and be able to react quickly to any adverse, unexpected situation. They must also be familiar with navigation technology.
All tanker operators must take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or busy waterway.
Transport Canada works with the four Pilotage Authorities in Canada that are responsible for providing safe, reliable and efficient marine pilotage services at ports in all geographic areas of the country. The four Pilotage Authorities in Canada are the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, the Pacific Pilotage Authority and the Laurentian Pilotage Authority.
Transport Canada implements a policy that prevents tankers of over 40,000 tonnes deadweight from using the southern portion of the Inside Passage, specifically the Johnston Strait and Discovery Passage. The Pacific Pilotage Authority enforces a policy that requires tankers of over 40,000 tonnes deadweight transiting the Haro Strait and Boundary Pass to use two pilots and a tug escort of suitable size. Furthermore, Port Metro Vancouver has several requirements for all loaded tankers that enter the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm. For example, loaded tankers must be escorted by two tugs as they navigate towards the oil terminals. There are also pilotage requirements (two pilots); training standards; transit windows; navigational aid systems; transit safety controls; and a vessel traffic scheme. For more information, see Port Metro Vancouver’s Second Narrows Transit Procedures.
To ensure that Canada is prepared for and can respond to oil spills from vessels and oil handling facilities, Transport Canada works with Environment Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, four response organizations and other agencies to respond to incidents, help reduce and eliminate pollution sources from ships in Canadian waters, and continually improve Canada’s National Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime. The regime sets standards for response organizations and oil handling facilities. Transport Canada sets the guidelines and regulatory structure for the preparedness for and response to marine oil spills. The department ensures that the appropriate level of preparedness is available to respond to marine oil pollution incidents in Canada of up to 10,000 tonnes within prescribed time standards and operating environments. Canada is a member of the International Maritime Organization and follows a number of international conventions to reduce pollution worldwide, including:
Transport Canada chairs the TERMPOL Review Process, a federal government initiative that assesses the safety and risks associated with oil/gas tanker movements to, from and around Canada’s marine terminals.
TERMPOL is a voluntary, extensive review process that may be requested by proponents involved in building and operating a marine terminal system for bulk handling of oil, chemicals and liquefied gases. It focuses on the marine transportation components of a project and examines the safety of tankers entering Canadian waters, navigating through channels, approaching berthing at a marine terminal and loading or unloading oil or gas.
The review is led by Transport Canada and can involve other federal departments and other stakeholder representatives, as required. The review may consider any safety measures above and beyond existing regulations to address any site-specific circumstance.
TERMPOL stands for “Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transshipment Sites.” This review process dates from the late 1970s when an interdepartmental committee reviewing marine pollution issues identified the need for a precise and reliable way to measure the navigational risks associated with placing and operating marine terminals for large oil tankers.
TERMPOL report recommendations are not binding, although the proponent can choose to adopt them. In addition, recommendations cannot override regulatory requirements under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. However, Transport Canada and other agencies can use a TERMPOL committee’s work and report to help determine the need for regulatory improvements.
Regular aerial surveillance is a widely recognized and effective deterrent that reduces oil discharges in Canadian waters because potential polluters are aware that Canada has heightened surveillance.
Under the National Aerial Surveillance Program, Transport Canada performs aerial surveillance over all Canadian waters to detect pollution from ships.
In 2011-2012, crews observed more than 12,000 vessels and detected 135 pollution occurrences nationally, with an estimated total volume of 1,014 litres of oil. There is an obligation for owners of vessels and operators of oil handling facilities to report marine spills to the Canadian Coast Guard.
Transport Canada may recommend that marine polluters be prosecuted under the related Acts, based on evidence gathered by the National Aerial Surveillance Program crew as part of its duties to help enforce domestic and international laws. Transport Canada investigations have led to numerous successful prosecutions against marine polluters over the years, with some financial penalties reaching more than $100,000. In the Arctic, enforcement occurs through aerial surveillance, as well as reports from government ships and reporting through the Long-Range Identification and Tracking system, which automatically transmits the identities and positions of vessels to authorities.
Larger ships (300 gross tonnes or more) that intend to enter Canada’s northern waters must report their position under the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zone Regulations (NORDREG).
For an oil pollution incident in Canada, shipowners are liable for reasonable response costs (as well as relating losses/damages) incurred for measures taken to prevent or minimize pollution damage from a ship. Commercial shipowners are covered against third-party liabilities through insurance. Domestic and international funds are also available to pay compensation for those costs.
Transport Canada reviews insurance coverage of vessels and certifies that they meet required levels of insurance under the Marine Liability Act, which is the principal legislation dealing with the liability of shipowners and ship operators in relation to passengers, cargo, pollution and property damage. For more information, please see Marine Safety and Security’s Web page on Civil Liability Insurance for Marine Pollution.
Transport Canada continuously educates the marine and fishing industry about regulations for protecting the marine environment.
To achieve the desired level of marine safety, Canadian ships need properly trained, qualified and competent officers and crew. This requirement is addressed under both the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Transport Canada develops and updates regulations, examinations and training standards for the certification of seafarers, including medical fitness; issues Certificates of Competency to seafarers after they have successfully fulfilled the requirements and passed examinations for the certificate; and keeps complete records of all seafarers who are candidates for or holders of these certificates.
A specific Transport Canada program, known as “Ships of Particular Interest,” targets certain foreign ships banned from entering Paris Memorandum* member ports before they arrive in Canada. The program involves reviewing past incident reports and the quality of ships as assessed by third parties (i.e., foreign governments, pilots, crews, etc.), allowing Transport Canada to target its inspection to vessels that are more likely not to meet safety standards and regulatory requirements. This program, combined with Canada's Port State Control program, has been highly effective in discouraging substandard ships from coming to Canada.
*Several countries sharing common waters group together under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ensure that vessels trading in their area meet international standards. Canada is a signatory to both the Paris MOU (full member since May 1994) and the Tokyo MOU (full member since inception, December 1994).