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

Oceans Protection Plan overview


Oceans Protection Plan

Canada’s coasts and waterways are an important facet of Canadian life and culture. They are a workplace for some and a playground for others. They allow us to travel and exchange goods. They are a source of inspiration and pride for us all. The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada's coasts and waterways, while growing our economy. With this Plan, future generations will continue to enjoy and benefit from this key part of Canada’s identity.


  • Create a world-leading marine safety system that protects Canada’s waters.
  • Restore and protect marine ecosystems and habitats.
  • Create stronger local emergency response capacity by establishing Indigenous partnerships and by engaging coastal communities.
  • Invest in oil spill cleanup research and methods to ensure that decisions taken to protect the marine environment are evidence-based.

OPP engagement approach

Partnership and collaboration are the foundation of the Government of Canada’s actions to protect our coasts. We are partnering with Indigenous peoples and coastal communities and seeking their advice and traditional knowledge in a number of areas concerning the Oceans Protection Plan. Our engagement is locally coordinated, transparent, collaborative, and supports reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Federal government and partners

  • Transport Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans
    • Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada

In partnership with

  • Local Communities
  • Stakeholders
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Marine Industry

More information:

Preserving ecosystems

  • Conserve or restore marine ecosystems through the $75-million Coastal Restoration Fund, and Marine Mammal Response and Marine Protected Area Surveillance Program.
  • Mitigate the risks of shipping on marine mammals and the environment like underwater noise through assessments of current and potential mitigation measures; and, marine environmental quality assessments.
  • Assess the impacts of marine shipping on the environment by evaluating cumulative impacts of shipping in key ecosystems, and building a program to assess potential impacts of future development.
  • Eliminate abandoned boats and wrecks by developing a plan that focusses on prevention, removal and recycling, making vessel owners liable for any cost of clean-up and through education and outreach programs.
  • Collect environmental baseline data through engagement with Indigenous peoples and coastal communities.

Evidence-based decision making

  • Better understand oil spills in water with research funding on how oil behaves in water, multi-partner research funding on oil spill response technology, and oil spill drift prediction.
  • Conduct research to improve measures for oil spill response planning and clean-up.

Partnership and engagement

  • Build Indigenous partnerships in the marine safety system, creating two new Coast Guard Auxiliary chapters; launching an Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer program; and creating Indigenous Community Response Teams.
  • Develop oceans collaborative management frameworks with the public, Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.
  • Increase participation of Indigenous peoples, coastal communities and women by providing training opportunities and including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in decision making.
  • Create national public forums for Canadians to discuss shipping safety and environmental issues.

World-leading marine safety

  • Provide and share real-time marine traffic information with local communities.
  • Collaborate on local marine traffic management, including establishing speed restrictions and safe passage routes.
  • Improve incident management toward seamless response by implementing the Incident Command System; new mobile command posts; and, marine communications and traffic services delivery.
  • Expand risk-based response planning tailored to local needs through enhanced risk analysis of maritime search and rescue.
  • Modernize legislation and regulations to strengthen the polluter pay principle by amending the Ship-Source Pollution Fund to include access to adequate compensation and amending the Pilotage Act and other shipping regulations.
  • Modernize hydrography and charting in key areas, as well as near shore and high-priority ports.
  • Increase on-water presence and marine emergency response capacity by implementing Primary Environmental Response Teams and modernizing Coast Guard environmental response equipment.
  • Expand the role of Coast Guard Auxiliary to include environmental response training.
  • Invest in safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure through additional RADAR sites, new tow kits on Coast Guard’s large vessels, and improved maritime communications capabilities including enhancements to Marine Communications and Traffic Centres.

More information:

Oceans Protection Plan
[PDF, 786 KB]


What it means for the Arctic

  • Investments to create high value jobs while improving marine safety and enhancing the ability to protect the marine environment.
  • Investments to enhance and expand marine training opportunities for women, Northerners, and Indigenous peoples in Canada’s Arctic.
  • Collecting data to assess potential cumulative effects of marine shipping in Eastern Arctic Nunavut.
  • Engaging with Indigenous peoples and coastal communities to collect environmental baseline data on coastal ecosystems.
  • Modern hydrographic surveys to address gaps in Arctic data and charts.
  • Investments in safety equipment and infrastructure across Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to ensure safer sealift and community supply.
  • Increasing the number of Marine Safety Inspectors in northern communities.
  • Increased presence of the Canadian Coast Guard in the Arctic through extension of the operational season.
  • Expanding the Indigenous community boat program.
  • Establishing a new inshore rescue boat station in the Arctic.
  • Increasing marine medical services in the North.
  • Expanding the National Aerial Surveillance Program to improve the observing, analyzing, recording, and reporting of marine pollution in Canada’s northern waters, including a new aircraft hangar complex in Iqaluit, N.U.
  • Creating Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Chapters in the Arctic.
  • Working together as partners with Indigenous and coastal communities for improvement of Canada’s northern marine transportation system.
  • Implementing a comprehensive national strategy to address abandoned, hazardous and wrecked vessels that focuses on the prevention and removal of these problem vessels.
  • Providing and sharing real-time marine traffic information with local communities.
  • Developing a national framework to help guide the management of local marine traffic issues and reduce local marine traffic issues.


What it means for Eastern Canada: Atlantic and Gulf coasts and Quebec and St. Lawrence region

  • Improving our marine weather services in a high-risk area in Atlantic Canada (location to be determined) by providing more detailed weather information, more frequently.
  • E-navigation services for Canso, N.S.; Saint John, NB.; and the Montreal-Quebec St. Lawrence River corridor.
  • New search and rescue life boat stations in Twillingate and Bay de Verde, and expansion of Search and Rescue capacity at the station in St. Anthony, N.L.
  • Re-establishing the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, N.L.
  • Environmental spill response planning in the three Atlantic/Quebec Area Response Plan pilot areas.
  • Charting by the Canadian Hydrographic Service of high-traffic ports and near shore areas.
  • Migratory bird studies in four areas: the St. Lawrence River and estuary (Montreal to Anticosti Island), Q.C.; Port Hawkesbury and the Straight of Canso, N.S.; and Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, N.B.
  • Engaging with Indigenous and coastal communities to collect environmental baseline data on coastal ecosystems in the Port of Saint John, N.B.; the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary, Q.C.; and Placentia Bay, N.L.
  • Collecting data to assess potential cumulative effects of marine shipping in the St. Lawrence River, Q.C.; Bay of Fundy, N.B.; and the south coast of Newfoundland.
  • Enhancing our ability to prepare for and respond to a marine environmental emergency by hiring an additional five experts and two enforcement officers in the Atlantic Canada and Quebec regions.
  • New measures to reduce the number of abandoned boats and prevent problem vessels like the Manolis L (off the coast of N.L.) and the Kathryn Spirit (in Beauharnois, Q.C.) to prevent burdens on local communities.
  • Provide and share real-time marine traffic information with local communities.
  • Developing a national framework to help guide the management of local marine traffic issues and reduce local marine traffic issues.
  • Funding to help restore coastal ecosystems.


What it means for the Pacific Coast

  • New RADAR sites in B.C.
  • Regional Response Planning initiative in northern B.C.
  • New Search and Rescue life boat stations in B.C., new Environmental Response equipment depot near Port Hardy.
  • Funding to help restore coastal ecosystems.
  • Canadian Hydrographic Service to chart high-profile ports and near shore areas in B.C. and to enhance services related to tides and water levels.
  • Improve high-resolution tides and current models.
  • Formalize an Oil Tanker Moratorium Act for B.C.’s north coast.
  • Enhancement of knowledge for science-based decision making in oil spill response operations.
  • E-navigation services for Kitimat, Port of Vancouver and Fraser River Port.
  • Modernization and expansion of 24/7 Coast Guard emergency response capacity.
  • Emergency tow capacity expansion in B.C. waters to help Coast Guard and others respond to marine incidents.
  • Marine mammal science funding, including research into the impacts of increased shipping on marine mammals and ecosystems.
  • Funds and programs to remove and address abandoned and wrecked vessels.
  • Engaging with coastal and Indigenous communities to collect environmental baseline data.

Abandoned Boats Programs

Abandoned small vessels in Canada have economic and environmental impacts on local communities. They can pollute the marine environment and disrupt local businesses, such as tourism and fisheries. They can also damage infrastructure, interfere with navigation, and pose safety risks.

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government announced a comprehensive strategy to address abandoned and wrecked vessels. This strategy includes two short-term funding programs.

The Abandoned Boats Program, managed by Transport Canada, is a $6.85 million funding initiative that provides funding to:

  • Help communities assess, remove and dispose of high-priority abandoned and/or wrecked small boats that are a hazard in Canadian waters;
  • Educate small-boat owners about how to responsibly manage the end-of-life of their boats; and
  • Support research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design.

The Small Craft Harbours, Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program, managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is a $1.325 million initiative that provides funding to Harbour Authorities and other eligible recipients to remove and dispose of abandoned and wrecked vessels located in small craft harbours across the country.

Abandoned Boats Programs
[PDF, 110 KB]

Addressing Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels in Canada

On November 7, 2016, the Government of Canada announced a comprehensive national strategy to address abandoned and wrecked vessels in Canadian waters. The national strategy focuses on both prevention and removal:

  1. In October 2017, we introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act (Bill C-64) in Parliament. For more details on the Act, please consult the About the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act page.
  2. We launched two short-term funding programs to help remove and dispose of small boats:
  3. We are also working to improve the pleasure craft licensing and the commercial vessel registration systems to ensure we can identify boat owners and hold them responsible for their boat throughout its life, including its proper disposal.
  4. We are exploring options for long-term funding to remove large and small abandoned and wrecked vessels. This will reduce the burden on Canadians and their communities.
  5. We are developing a national inventory of problem vessels and a risk assessment process to help us prioritize and determine how to handle these vessels.
  6. Finally, Canada is taking steps to bring the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 into force in Canada through Bill C-64.

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.

This information is also available in:


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 inshore rescue boat station

An important part of Canada’s maritime search and rescue system, the crews of Canada’s Inshore Rescue Boat program respond to marine distress calls and provide assistance to mariners in distress or in need of assistance. Crews provide on-scene assistance, First Aid and Medevac transport as required, and aid to disabled vessels. These activities occur at any time of the day or night, during all types of weather and sea conditions. The Government of Canada is creating an Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. This first station in the Arctic will provide seasonal search and rescue capabilities in this region.

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 Environmental Baseline Program

The Coastal Environmental Baseline Program will support evidence-based decisions that will guide economic growth while preserving our marine ecosystems for future generations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists and community partners will collect important information from six regions across Canada. The data collected from this program will be used when making decisions that could impact sensitive marine habitat and species.

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]

Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act prohibits oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil products as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations in the moratorium area. The moratorium covers the area from the Canada/United States border in the north, down to the point on British Columbia’s mainland across from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, including Haida Gwaii. It protects the waters of Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Cumulative effects of marine shipping

Through the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is working with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities to understand the effects of vessel traffic on coastal environments. The desired outcome of this initiative is to enhance knowledge of the cumulative impacts and stressors of shipping on marine environments.

Hazardous and noxious substances

The transportation of hazardous and noxious substances by ships is part of Canada's international economic trade. Examples of hazardous and noxious substances include chemicals shipped as bulk solids or liquids, or dangerous goods being transported in container ships.

To date, the risk of these types of substances being released has been extremely low. However, a hazardous and noxious substance release could potentially have a significant impact on public health, the environment, marine life, and the economy.

The Government of Canada is building on existing pollution response measures to better manage potential impacts from hazardous and noxious substance releases from ships.

The objective of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances initiative is to develop a national program to better prepare for and respond to releases of these substances from ships.

Next Step:

Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard will hold engagement sessions with Indigenous partners, coastal communities and stakeholders in 2018. Stay connected by visiting Let’s Talk – Oceans Protection Plan at:

Increasing emergency tow capacity

The Government of Canada will increase its emergency towing capacity by installing towing equipment on all major Canadian Coast Guard vessels, leasing two offshore vessels capable of towing large ships in distress on the West Coast, and engaging partners to complete a needs analysis study on emergency towing requirements on the West Coast.

Legislative Amendments

On December 13, 2018, Parliament approved amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the Marine Liability Act.

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 governs the safety of marine transportation, environmental damage, health and safety on board vessels, inspection and enforcement, and international obligations. The amendments:

  • Strengthen marine environmental protection by enhancing our ability to create regulations that protect marine environments, and enabling the Minister to issue orders to quickly address environmental or marine safety risks.
  • Improve environmental response by strengthening and clarifying the Canadian Coast Guard’s authority to intervene in ship-source pollution incidents earlier, faster and more effectively.
  • Enhance deterrence and enforcement by increasing maximum administrative monetary penalties to $250,000 per infraction.
  • Support research and innovation through temporary exemptions that foster research to improve marine safety and environmental protection.

The Marine Liability Act governs the liability of ship owners for pollution damage, passengers, cargo and private property. The amendments modernize the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund by:

  • Removing the per-incident limit for compensation, so eligible claims are fully compensated.
  • Enabling faster, easier access to compensation, using a fast-track process for small claims.
  • Providing emergency funding in the event of a significant

Legislative Amendments
[PDF, 284 KB]

Lifeboat stations and 24/7 response

The Canadian Coast Guard strategically places search and rescue lifeboat stations across Canada, and staffs them with highly trained professionals who are well-equipped to respond to marine incidents in near-shore areas. The Coast Guard will open new lifeboat stations in strategically chosen locations.

Marine weather information services

Environment and Climate Change Canada has a long and proud history of providing marine forecasting services to mariners who rely on this important information to safely navigate through Canada’s ports and waterways. Under the Oceans Protection Plan Marine Weather Information Services initiative, ECCC will give mariners enhanced weather information, including a short-term forecast of wind speed, wind direction and wave height.

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.

Contact us


Proactive vessel management

Indigenous communities have raised concerns about marine safety and the impacts of marine shipping on ecologically and culturally sensitive marine areas. In response, the Government of Canada has launched the Proactive Vessel Management Initiative.

What is Proactive Vessel Management?

Proactive Vessel Management refers to the collaboration of multiple parties to:

  • Resolve marine safety issues in local and regional waterways related to commercial shipping
  • Protect the marine environment

Solutions to these issues are developed cooperatively and adopted voluntarily.

We’re working with Indigenous partners, the marine industry and other stakeholders to develop a national framework to guide how Proactive Vessel Management can be implemented across Canada.

Safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure for Northern communities

The delivery of goods by sea is known as marine sealift and re-supply. Many communities in Canada’s Arctic rely on marine sealift and re-supply services. Air services are very expensive, so 95% of goods in the North are shipped by sea.

Shipping in the Arctic is challenging. Northern communities are remote and difficult to access due to ice conditions. Sealift infrastructure is scarce and the sealift and re-supply season is short.

Through the Safety Equipment and Basic Marine Infrastructure for Northern Communities initiative, we are investing $94.3 million to improve Arctic sealift and re-supply for communities in territories that rely on re-supply operations such as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Some communities in Northern Québec and Labrador may also be considered.

This information is also available in Inuktitut [PDF, 331 KB]


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]

Whale Detection and Avoidance Initiative

Vessel traffic is increasing in Canadian waters that are frequented by endangered whales, increasing the risk of collisions. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting these marine mammals and is working to address threats they face.

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