Regulations to control discharges from cruise vessels operating in Canadian waters
Canada maintains one of the strongest Port State Control inspection programs in the world to ensure all ships from cruise ships to tankers and container ships comply with standards on safety and environmental protection.
Cruise ships in Canada's coastal and internal waterways are required to respect international and domestic regulations with respect to pollution and other discharges.
At the international level, commercial passenger vessels, including cruise ships, are subject to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulatory framework for pollution controls relating to oil, packaged goods, sewage, garbage and air emissions.
The cruise industry has made international commitments to protect the environment and has developed guidelines for best practices within its industry sector. The guidelines cover specific items including: products containing mercury, batteries, bilge and oily water residues, garbage, incinerator ash, wastewater reclamation, gray water, sewage, advanced wastewater treatment systems, air emissions, halocarbons, anti-fouling paints and ballast water.
The guidelines provide a clear indication of the procedures to be developed for cruise ship operators to comply with Canadian law. The guidelines also include additional practices that cruise ship operators have agreed to follow. The cruise ship industry has reported a high rate of compliance with the guidelines.
IMO regulations prohibit vessels from discharging sewage within three miles of the nearest land, unless they operate an approved treatment plant. Discharges within three to twelve miles must be broken down, diluted, and disinfected prior to discharge. The vast majority of cruise ships have on-board sewage control systems with either sewage treatment plants. The IMO requirements are based on how, on the high seas, the oceans are capable of assimilating and dealing with raw sewage through natural bacterial action and dispersion.
The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA 2001) outlines strict controls of all discharges within internal waterways such as the Great Lakes and the lower portions of the St. Lawrence Seaway System. As well, at the request of the Province of British Columbia, sensitive areas of the Canadian west coast have also been designated as prohibited areas for sewage discharges.
Under the CSA 2001, there are regulations to eliminate deliberate, negligent or accidental discharge of ship-source pollutants into the marine environment. The list of harmful ship-source discharges includes oil, noxious liquid substance and dangerous chemicals, sewage, garbage and air anti-fouling systems. Sewage requirements under these regulationsmirrors the MARPOL Annex IV provisions for large vessels and extend the application to any small vessel fitted with a toilet.
Regulations generally prohibit the dumping of garbage into any area of the marine environment under Canadian jurisdiction (200 nautical mile limit) including solid galley waste, food waste, paper, rags, plastics, glass, metal, bottles, crockery, junk or similar refuse. Discharges of ground up wastes are permitted in Canadian jurisdiction under specified conditions, including being a minimum distance from three nautical miles from land. Regulations also require ships to have a Garbage Management Plan onboard and to keep a record of all garbage that is discharged anywhere at sea or landed ashore.
The CSA 2001 limits the emission of smoke from a vessel's fuel burning installations to specified densities. The guidelines specify that the average sulphur content of fuels used on-board during a cruise season should not exceed 1.5 per cent. Regulations will be amended to implement both an expected Canada-US Emission Control Area for ships and revised international standards on ships' air emissions.
Hazardous and Noxious Substances
The CSA 2001, and associated standards, strictly prohibit vessels from discharging oil, identified chemicals, and/or other hazardous and noxious substances into Canadian waters.
Transport Canada maintains a National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) to detect illegal discharges at sea. Evidence gathered by NASP crews is used by Transport Canada and Environment Canada to enforce the Government's environmental legislation and may be used to prosecute offenders. Transport Canada investigates all reported incidents of ship-source marine pollution and has successfully prosecuted offenders as a result of these investigations. (http://www.marinepollution-pollutionmaritime.gc.ca/eng/menu.htm)
Cruise ships coming to Canada from outside our exclusive economic zone, with the exception of vessels coming from certain adjacent waters of the United States, are required to manage their ballast water. They must do so in a way that minimizes the risk of introducing harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. Management includes the exchange of ballast water at sea or in specified alternate zones, landing ashore to a treatment facility, retaining it on board without any discharge in Canada or carrying out onboard treatment of ballast water. These requirements also extend to ships carrying cargo with only residual quantities of ballast on board, if they subsequently take on ballast and discharge it within Canadian waters. Failure to comply with the requirements could entail detention of the vessel.
December 2006/updated March 23, 2009
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