Canada: Committed to the Goals of the International Maritime Community- TP 14916 E (2011)

Canada – Committed to International Goals

Canada has the longest coastline in the world at 243,000 km, large navigable waterways and many ports of call in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Great Lakes and the Arctic.

Ships carry most world trade and about half of Canada’s trade. Our geography allows us to welcome an average of 21,000 international ships to our ports and through our waters, carrying passengers, goods and cargo each year. We expect this number to increase along with Canada’s growing activity in international maritime trade.

The safe and rapid movement of Canada’s international maritime trade (worth $170 billion in 2010) is vital to our economy. As well, since at any given time, most vessels in Canadian waters are foreign-flagged, we need effective tools for regulating foreign vessels to protect our marine environment and to ensure the safe and efficient operation of our ports and waterways.

Canada aims to provide safe, secure and environmentally responsible navigation for all vessels in our waters. We do this by working with the IMO to establish international standards that we can adopt into our marine safety regulations.

Canada is a founding member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Specialized Agency that governs the world’s maritime shipping.

The oceans are a vital link in Canada’s trade with the world. In 2009, Canada’s ports handled over 302 million metric tonnes of international commerce. Marine transportation often represents the only economic and efficient means of serving Canada’s trade and supplying remote communities.

In 2009, Canada maintained over 324 major ports and harbours, which received and dispatched over 66,900 commercial ship visits, both international and domestic, along with 2,410 movements for fishing and recreational vessels.  

Canada and the IMO

Canada has a long history of working closely with the IMO to advance standards that promote maritime safety and security, protect the environment and safeguard seafarers.

The IMO governs the world’s maritime shipping. It helps eliminate substandard shipping by promoting global:

  • adoption of the highest maritime safety and security standards possible;
  • efficiency of navigation; and
  • prevention, and control of marine pollution from ships.

As a founding member, Canada has been active in the IMO since it began in 1948 and Canadians have been a vital part of the IMO Secretariat. Furthermore, Canada:

  • has been elected to the Council without interruption since 1959;
  • has had delegates in various areas of the organization; and
  • is represented on all the IMO committees and sub-committees.

This degree of involvement reflects the importance we place on helping to develop maritime policy that applies to international and domestic vessels navigating waters throughout the world. We believe that a Canadian presence on the IMO Council is the best way to achieve this.

Canada is, and continues to be, a strong supporter of IMO initiatives. For example:

  • We participate in the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and we publicly urged other member countries to do the same to make flag states more accountable.
  • We chair correspondence groups; working groups; review committees and sub-committees that advance issues in several domains;
  • We have provided more than $600,000 in grant funding since 2006 to the IMO’s International Maritime Security Trust Fund. This contribution supported such activities as sub-regional seminars on marine security, national marine security train-the-trainer courses and regional workshops.
  • We are a champion of the World Maritime University.
  • We provided, in 2009, over $150,000 to reduce greenhouse gases from shipping, namely through supporting the Second IMO Greenhouse Gas Study and providing expert advice on market based measures.

Canada – Ratification of International Conventions

As a result of its work on domestic legislation, Canada was able to ratify or accede to several IMO Conventions. This enables us to fully enforce safety and environmental standards in accordance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Our long-term strategy is to harmonize domestic regulations with international standards as much as possible. Canada is continuing its work on reviewing further Conventions for possible future ratification by Canada. To date more than 39 IMO Conventions are referenced in the Act.

Since 2008, Canada has either ratified or acceded to the following Conventions:

  • Annexes IV, V, VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) (reducing pollution from sewage and garbage; controlling air emissions from ships);
  • International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (limits on environmentally harmful paints);
  • International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (control of aquatic invasive species);
  • 1988 Protocol of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea – SOLAS (harmonized system of surveys and certification);
  • 1988 Protocol to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (harmonized system of surveys and certification respecting the level to which a ship may be loaded);
  • International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel;
  • International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001; and
  • Supplementary Fund Protocol of 2003 to the 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

Canada also contributed to the safety of seafarers by ratifying the International Labour Organization, Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. The Convention sets out seafarers’ rights to decent work conditions and helps to create conditions of fair competition for shipowners.

Canada – Foreign Vessel Inspections

Port State Control allows a sovereign state to board and inspect foreign vessels entering their waters to ensure compliance with various major international maritime conventions.

More than 1,300 inspections take place on board foreign ships in Canada’s ports each year, to ensure that they meet international safety, security and environmental standards, and that crew members have adequate living and working conditions.

Canada was accepted as the first non-European member of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding in 1994. Canada was also the driving force in creating the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding and has been a member since 1993.

These regimes are two of the world’s most rigorous in ensuring compliance with international conventions. They play a major role in eliminating the operation of sub-standard ships through a harmonized system of Port State Control.

Canada – Dedicated to Safety, Security, Trade and the Marine Environment

Canada’s laws and regulations promote marine safety, prevent pollution, address incidents that may occur, and meet related liabilities and compensation needs.


Canada enhances marine safety through programs that protect life, health, property and the marine environment in the context of an efficient and sustainable marine transportation system.

For example, we:

  • regulate safety equipment;
  • monitor pleasure craft and commercial vessels that enter Canadian waters; and
  • promote safe operation in commercial shipping through the certification of officers and crew on Canadian ships.

Canada shows its commitment to international marine safety through our:

  • Flag State Control program, which helps ensure that Canada’s vessels engaged on both domestic and international voyages, meet the required standards; and
  • promotion of safety management systems – an internationally recognized approach to systematically reduce safety risks.


While Canada has one of the safest and most secure transportation systems in the world, we continue to look for ways to increase the security of our maritime system.

Enhancing security helps fight organized crime, increases search and rescue capabilities, protects our fisheries, and prevents marine pollution. Above all, it improves our ability to prevent terrorists and terrorist devices from entering Canada, accessing our maritime transportation system and threatening Canadians and Canadian interests at home and abroad.

Canada’s efforts to enhance marine security include:

  • creating programs to identify threats and improve response capacity;
  • keeping a visible on-water federal presence through the Canadian Coast Guard and Navy;
  • maintaining secure ports and maritime facilities; and
  • sharing information with international bodies, industry, multilateral organizations, and provinces and municipalities.

We balance these efforts with the need to maintain the free flow of trade and people to keep Canada’s maritime sector competitive and our economy strong.


Canada has many ways to connect North America with the world by exploiting advantages in geography, transportation and commerce. For example, Canada’s gateway and corridor strategies can leverage significant Canada–US trade flows to put Canada in a position to benefit from emerging economic powers such as China and India.

Since competition among global supply chains is growing stronger, Canada’s gateways and trade corridor transportation system must continuously prove it can efficiently support major international trade flows and passenger movements.

Canada has a modest population base on one of the world’s largest national landmass – close to 10 million square kilometres. This makes international trade very important to us. Transportation, particularly maritime transportation, has greatly shaped our trade patterns, our economy and our country, connecting us to international markets.

In 2010, ships carried nearly 60 per cent of all of Canada’s $143 billion overseas trade of goods (exports & imports), excluding the US. We depend on foreign ships to provide most of our international shipping, it is a priority to ensure a common regulatory framework provides a predictable environment for global shipping and promotes Canada’s interests.


Canada plays a strong role at the IMO when it comes to supporting the needs of the environment. Through our work with the IMO, Canada has advanced a number of domestic clean water initiatives such as regulations for preventing pollution from ships, managing ballast water to prevent the entry of invasive species and requirements for marine pollution liability.

Canada’s leadership role has stemmed not only from being a member of the Council since the IMO’s inception, but from Canadians serving at the IMO, which include such posts as Secretary General and 12 years as Chairman of the IMO’s Legal Committee.

Canada also chairs the IMO’s working group on ballast water and was instrumental in facilitating the IMO’s work on developing pollution liability rules. Canada also played a key role in the development of liability and compensation conventions. Since 2005, Canada has been elected Chairman of the 1992 Fund Assembly of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds and more recently, Canada played an important role in the development of the 2010 Protocol to the HNS Convention.

As IMO embarks on key work to develop standards addressing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, Canada has continued its leadership role by providing support for the IMO Study on Greenhouse Gases and for the IMO Expert Group on Market-Based Measures.


Given the basin-shape of the Arctic Ocean and seas, Canada joins other Arctic states in placing a high priority on protecting the Arctic marine environment.

Canada has long practiced stewardship of the North through its membership in the Arctic Council and is involved in regulatory and legislative initiatives that help us support safe navigation and protect the environment in the Arctic. These include:

  • Amending the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to extend the Act’s application from 100 to 200 nautical miles offshore.
  • The requirement for mandatory ship reporting in Canada’s northern waters in the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zones (NORDREG) Regulations, which came into force in July 2010.
  • Participating fully in updating and expanding the International Maritime Organization Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice Covered Waters into the IMO Guidelines for Ships Operating in Polar Waters. These guidelines are the basis for the proposed Mandatory Polar Code for all commercial shipping in Arctic and Antarctic waters.
  • Helping to develop the Mandatory Polar Code. This Code will reflect the need for special ship design, strength, operation and crewing requirements, to address the challenges ships operating in the Polar Regions face.

Canada plans to continue to contribute to IMO activities. Canada believes that a Canadian presence at the IMO table is critical to ensure that our nation continues to influence maritime policy at the international level. Canada recognizes the benefits of maritime trade to improve the well being of people around the world.

Canada hopes to be re-elected to Category B of the IMO Council and will apply for membership to the Council during the 27th regular session of the IMO Assembly.

Canada’s long-term strategy, contingent upon IMO membership, is to harmonize our domestic regulations with international standards. This will safeguard our interests, strengthen our domestic legislation and preserve maritime sovereignty.

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