A summary of tanker safety improvements already announced since 2012

The Government of Canada has:

Introduced the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

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;
  • classify new offences to be considered as contraventions of the Act and extend financial 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.

Increased foreign 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. These inspections now extend to foreign tankers, which means that every foreign tanker is inspected on its first visit to a Canadian port, and annually thereafter.

Expanded the National Aerial Surveillance Program

Long-term funding has been provided to support the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP). The enhanced program boosts surveillance efforts in areas such as northern British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. A watchful eye is kept over ships transiting waters under Canadian jurisdiction through the 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. Investigations have led to numerous successful prosecutions against marine polluters over the years, with some cases resulting in significant financial penalties.

Moved to Establish an Incident Command System

As the lead federal agency to ensure an appropriate response to a ship-source spill, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) works with other partners to ensure the protection of the marine environment and public safety. The CCG is adopting the Incident Command System, which allows for a more effective response to a major spill and integrate its operations with key partners, such as Canada’s private-sector response organizations. The Incident Command System is an internationally accepted emergency management system used for the command, control, and coordination of emergency response operations.

Improved and modified aids to navigation

Aids to navigation and hydrographic charts and safety information are important elements of Canada’s marine navigation system. Aids to navigation warn of obstructions and are used to mark the location of shipping routes. The Canadian Hydrographic Service is conducting hydrographic surveys and is incorporating the aids to navigation information along with other safety information to improve navigational charts and other related safety products. Implementation of these measures will help ensure mariners are adequately provided with the navigational support they require for safe and efficient operation of vessels to and from the Port of Kitimat.

Established the Tanker Safety Expert Panel

The Tanker Safety Expert Panel has proposed further measures to strengthen Canada’s oil tanker safety system. The panel has consulted key stakeholders to enhance the government’s knowledge and understanding of how well the current system is working, has reviewed our current preparedness and response capacity, and has proposed new ways to bring Canada’s tanker safety system to world-class status. The panel submitted a first report recommending measures to improve oil tanker safety on Canada’s east and west coasts in November of 2013, and is now focusing on Canada’s North, and hazardous and noxious substances across Canada.

Conducted new science research into petroleum products

Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada have conducted scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance the understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment. Results of this integrated scientific research led to better decision-making in the areas of spill-response technologies and countermeasures, enabling identification of best practices with regard to the selection of the best response tools in a given situation. This research also provides a better understanding of the effect of products, such as diluted bitumen, on marine ecosystems.

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May 2014

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