Harper government strengthens world-class tanker safety system

SAINT JOHN, NB, May 13, 2014 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada announced today it is further strengthening Canada's already robust tanker safety system. These measures act on recommendations by the independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel and build on other studies, as well as input received from provincial governments, Aboriginal groups and marine stakeholders from across Canada. These safety measures are in addition to those announced by the Government of Canada in March 2013.

The improvements announced today work towards preventing spills in the first place, cleaning them up quickly if they do occur, and making sure polluters pay. Implementing these new measures represents an ongoing commitment to the Canadian public towards Canada's world-class tanker safety system, which is essential to protect our marine environments and responsibly transport our natural resources. These measures include:

  • Modernizing Canada's marine navigation system. Canada is a member of the International Maritime Organization, and will take a leadership role in implementing e-Navigation, which reduces the risk of an oil spill by providing accurate and real-time information and data on navigational hazards, weather and ocean conditions to vessel operators and marine authorities to minimize the potential of collisions and accidents.

  • Establishing new area response planning partnerships for each of the following regions that have current or projected high levels of tanker traffic: the southern portion of British Columbia; Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick; Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia; Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec. Oil spill prevention, preparedness and response in these four areas will take into consideration the area's geography, environmental sensitivities, and oil tanker traffic volumes.

  • Supporting Aboriginal communities so that they can participate in marine emergency preparedness and response planning around their communities.

  • Amending legislation to provide the use of alternate response measures such as the use of chemical dispersants and burning spilled oil during emergencies, and to clarify the Canadian Coast Guard's authority to use and to authorize these measures when there is likely to be a net environmental benefit.

  • Strengthening the polluter pay regime by introducing legislative and regulatory amendments that will enhance Canada's domestic Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF). These amendments will :
    • remove the fund's existing per-incident liability limit of $161 million in order to make available the full amount of the SOPF for a single incident—currently around $400 million;

    • ensure compensation is provided to eligible claimants and recover these costs from industry through a levy, in the unlikely event that all domestic and international pollution funds have been exhausted; and

    • compensate those who have lost earnings due to an oil spill even if their property has not been contaminated by a spill.

Quotes

"Our government is committed to further strengthening an already robust oil tanker safety system with an excellent record, and has acted upon the independent advice of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel to improve it."

"With these new measures in place, we are enhancing Canada's world class tanker safety system, one that provides maximum protection to the Canadian public and our environment."

"These new measures reflect the depth of our commitment to transport resources responsibly. Implementing these new safety measures is a major step towards making Canada a world leader in all areas relating to oil spills from ships. We are continuing to engage Aboriginal communities to achieve this goal, by sharing their knowledge and skills toward improving spill prevention, preparedness, and response."

The Honourable Lisa Raitt
Minister of Transport

Related Products

  • World-Class Tanker Safety System: New measures to strengthen oil spill prevention, preparedness and response, and the polluter pay principle
  • A summary of tanker safety improvements already announced since 2012
  • Marine transportation experts support new measures to strengthen Canada's world-class tanker safety system

Associated Links


Backgrounder

World-Class Tanker Safety System

New measures to strengthen oil spill prevention, preparedness and response, and the polluter pay principle

The Government of Canada announced today new measures that, once implemented, will achieve a world-class tanker safety system in Canada. These measures build on recommendations from the Tanker Safety Expert Panel and other studies, and have been informed by engagement with provincial governments, Aboriginal groups, marine stakeholders and internal analysis by federal departments and agencies. Together, these measures demonstrate the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to strengthen marine safety measures to protect the public and the environment.

Prevention Measures: taking all reasonable measures to avoid spills in the first place

Modernizing Canada's Navigation System

Currently, mariners navigate Canada's waterways using primarily visual navigational markers, such as buoys, lighthouses, paper nautical charts, and publications, as well as radar. The marine industry strongly supports e-navigation as it will result in better, more reliable navigational information, leading to increased vessel safety and more efficient operations. Under this initiative, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Environment Canada and Transport Canada will begin the modernization of Canada's marine navigation system by moving towards a system that will share real-time electronic marine safety information with mariners.

Specific measures include providing updated navigational information in a format that is integrated with vessel systems (such as electronic charts and other safety information); implementing leading-edge tools and technology to support the collection and sharing of this information to mariners (e.g., smart environmental weather buoys, and year-round lighted buoys on the St. Lawrence shipping channel). Another measure is to propose regulatory amendments to extend Automated Identification Systems carriage requirements to a greater number of vessels, which will enhance vessel monitoring by Canadian authorities and by other ships navigating nearby.

Preparedness and Response: responding to and cleaning spills quickly and effectively

Area Response Planning

Reflecting the independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel's main recommendation in its November 2013 report, A Review of Canada's Ship-Source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime—Setting the Course for the Future, the Government of Canada will work collaboratively with each of Canada's four certified response organizations and other key stakeholders to develop and implement tailored response plans in four areas that have the highest level of tanker traffic:

  • the southern portion of British Columbia;

  • Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick;

  • Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia; and

  • Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec.

Oil spill preparedness and response activities in these areas will take into consideration geography, environmental sensitivities, traffic volumes, and ensure the appropriate spill cleanup equipment is in place and readily available. This initiative will draw on Aboriginal and marine stakeholder participation to strengthen spill preparedness and response plans. Lessons learned from these four areas will be used to refine area response planning models, and in the future, will allow the Government of Canada to consider options for implementing this spill-response planning approach in other locations across Canada.

Effective response planning requires an understanding of how oil products behave if spilled into a marine environment. Preliminary scientific research conducted by Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada concluded that diluted bitumen can behave differently than other oils under certain environmental conditions. Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada will undertake additional research and development into the pre-treatment of heavy oil products at the source; the behaviour of different formulations of heavy oil products when spilled in marine environments; and a variety of potential alternative response measures.

Building Marine Safety Capacity in Aboriginal Communities

This initiative will assist Aboriginal communities to access training and equipment to allow for their participation in marine emergency preparedness.  These measures will have inter-related benefits: they will support a strong safety system through Aboriginal participation; and provide skill enhancement opportunities. This activity reflects recommendations by the Special Federal Representative for West Coast Energy Infrastructure, Mr. Douglas Eyford in his December 2013 report, Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships: Aboriginal Canadians and Energy Development.

Alternative Response Measures

This initiative would propose legislative amendments to lift legal prohibitions to using alternate response measures during emergencies, and to clarify the Canadian Coast Guard's authority to use alternate response measures to reduce the environmental impact of ship-source oil spills. As noted by the Tanker Safety Expert Panel, mechanical recovery (booming and skimming) is the predominant spill response measure used in Canada. The panel also noted that there are a number of federal laws that currently limit the use of alternative response measures such as using spill-treating agents, even though using these tools can provide a net environmental benefit.

Liability and Compensation: Ensuring polluters pay

There are several sources of compensation for oil spills:

Canada's liability and compensation regime for oil spills is based on the "polluter pay" principle. If a ship causes a spill, under Canadian law its owner is liable for losses and damages. Therefore, shipowners are required to carry insurance to cover their liability.

As well, there are two international funds available, known collectively as the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds. Combined with the Shipowners liability, these funds provide for approximately $1.2 billion in compensation for a spill of persistent oil carried by a tanker.

Additionally, Canada's Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF) pays compensation for damages from oil spills in Canada from any type of oil and any type of ship. The SOPF was created in the early 1970's from levies from receivers and shippers of oil by ship. The SOPF's current reserve is approximately $400 million, and its total liability for claims for any one spill is approximately $161 million.

Combined, these funds can be used to cover up to $1.36 billion in spill cleanup costs, and related damages.

The Government of Canada will enhance the liability and compensation regime by introducing legislative and regulatory amendments to:

  • Allow the full balance of the SOPF, currently about $400 million, to be available in the event of an oil spill;

  • In the event that all available sources of funds have been exhausted by spill-related claims, the Government of Canada will ensure compensation is provided to eligible claimants, and then recover those payments from the marine oil transport industry through a levy; and

  • Align the SOPF with international funds by covering pure economic losses suffered by people who have had a loss of earnings but whose property has not been contaminated by an oil spill.

Backgrounder

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.


MARINE TRANSPORTATION EXPERTS SUPPORT NEW MEASURES TO
STRENGTHEN CANADA'S WORLD-CLASS TANKER SAFETY SYSTEM

"We are encouraged by this announcement today, as the federal government's plan for a World Class Tanker Safety system will benefit from robust research from a variety of disciplines. The Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response network (MEOPAR) was established by the federal government in 2012 as a Network of Centres of Excellence to conduct research that will deliver an informed and safer relationship with the ocean. MEOPAR is eager to work in partnership with Transport Canada and other federal departments and agencies to help coordinate and support government-academia-industry partnerships to deliver on this important mandate."

Dr. Douglas Wallace, Scientific Director, Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology

"The Government of Canada has made it clear that science and technology will be critical pillars to ensure that Canada has the most innovative and smartest capability to keep its oceans safe.  By drawing on the world-leading expertise and ocean observing technology of Ocean Networks Canada, the World Class Tanker Safety Program will be a global first in environmental monitoring, and spill prevention and response. "

Dr. Kate Moran, President of Ocean Networks Canada

"WCMRC shares Transport Canada's vision of a world-class spill response regime. We support the movement towards a regime where capacity fits the assessed risks of each geographic region. We look forward to working with government and industry to continue to enhance the existing regime".

Kevin Gardner, President and General Manager, Western Canada Marine Response Corporation

"I am pleased to see these new measures reflect recommendations made by the Tanker Safety Expert Panel.  The Government of Canada has taken our work seriously, and has done a very good job in further strengthening an already strong tanker safety system in each of the three areas of spill prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation. "

Captain Gordon Houston, Chair, Tanker Safety Expert Panel

"Canada has provided internationally recognized leadership over the last decades in pollution prevention and response, and all of the work leading to this announcement has created a truly world-class regime that should be a source of pride for all contributors.

This world-class regime is of particular importance in our area given the significant quantities of petroleum products moved in and out of Port Saint John.  Our future will see even greater quantities of petroleum products moved through our waters and this strengthened system will provide critical direction for the many organizations who currently work together in ensuring a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible operation."

                                                                              Jim Quinn, President & CEO, Port Saint John

"Establishing the highest possible standards for tanker safety is essential to the continued development of our marine ports. Port Metro Vancouver already enjoys over 50 years of incident-free tanker transit and we welcome the commitment of government to ongoing protection of our environment. "

Robin Silvester, President & CEO, Port Metro Vancouver

"The Administrator notes that Canada already provides one of the best, if not the best, regime of liability and compensation for oil tanker spills, based on the interaction of its domestic fund with the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds. The new package is likely to further enhance that regime, since it contemplates the removal of the per incident limit for the domestic fund".

                                                                    Alfred Popp, Administrator of the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund

"We commend the work done so far by the Tanker Safety Expert Panel for the report on Canada's Ship-source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime. Although it recognizes that mechanisms currently in place have been effective and that no major spill has occurred during the period within scope, we support the Panel's recommendations that Regional Risk Assessment and Intervention capabilities reviews should be conducted regularly and be made public; and that the Canadian tax payer should not bear any liability for intervention on oil spills in Canadian waters. We are looking forward to Phase 2 of the review which focuses on ship-source spill preparedness and response requirements specific to the Arctic, as well as requirements for a hazardous and noxious substances system".

Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority

"The Pacific Pilotage Authority supports the Governments initiatives in ensuring a World-Class Tanker Safety System.   With tanker safety on the West Coast already a high priority for pilots and the marine industry, these initiatives will further enhance the present high safety standards.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority has been working in partnership with the marine industry, the pilots and the Federal Government for many years in order to ensure the safe movement of bulk liquid along the west coast of Canada.  The initiatives on the World-Class tanker safety system will further enhance the safety of liquid bulk cargo moving on the West Coast of Canada. "

                                                                                Kevin Obermeyer, CEO, Pacific Pilotage Authority Canada

SOURCE: Government of Canada

For further information:

Ashley Kelahear
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Lisa Raitt
Minister of Transport, Ottawa
613-991-0700

Media Relations
Transport Canada, Ottawa
613-993-0055

Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca. Subscribe to e-news or stay connected through RSSTwitterFacebookYouTube and Flickr to keep up to date on the latest from Transport Canada.

This news release may be made available in alternative formats for persons living with visual disabilities.


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