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Oceans Protection Plan includes robust polluter-pay approach to abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels


November 8, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter


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Canada’s new $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan involves a raft of measures to help protect the country’s marine environment, including a pollution-pay approach with regard to abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels

Burrard Inlet at sunset, aerial view from a mountain at sunset timeThe national plan was announced Monday in St. John’s and Halifax, respectively, by federal fisheries and oceans minister Dominic LeBlanc and environment and climate change minister Catherine McKenna.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and transport minister Marc Garneau made a similar announcement Monday in Vancouver.

Specific measures are planned for the West, the East and the Arctic.

Meeting or exceeding international standards, the Oceans Protection Plan’s overall goals are to improve marine safety and responsible shipping, protect Canada’s marine environment and create stronger partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities.

The plan will allow for better, quicker and more effective response to marine spills and incidents along Canada’s coasts and major waterways, notes a joint statement from the fisheries and oceans, transport and environment departments.

“In addition, preventative measures will help ensure marine spills and incidents do not happen in the first place,” Garneau says in the press release.

Among the many measures in the Oceans Protection Plan is the federal government’s commitment to address risks associated with abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels.

Acknowledging that most vessel owners properly dispose of their property, Ottawa, nonetheless, “recognizes the risks that abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels pose to safe navigation, the marine environment, public health and local economies.”

In response, it has developed a comprehensive plan focusing on prevention and removal, including a robust, polluter-pay approach for future vessel clean-up.

Specifically, the plan will do the following:

  • prohibit owners from abandoning their vessels;
  • make vessel owners responsible and liable for the cost of any vessel clean-up as a result of abandonment, maritime casualty or irresponsible vessel management;
  • empower the federal government to take more proactive action on vessels causing hazards before they become costly to address;
  • improve the accuracy of vessel owner identification to help ensure they can be held responsible;
  • create a list of problem vessels to understand the scope, scale and risks associated with this issue;
  • work with provincial, territorial and local governments and Indigenous communities to support the clean-up of smaller high-priority vessels posing risks to coastal communities, and develop plans to address large commercial problem vessels in line with the risks they pose; and
  • promote education and outreach activities to inform owners of their responsibilities for proper vessel disposal.

The polluter-pays will be further strengthened by amending the Canadian Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund to ensure adequate industry-funded compensation is available for those affected by oil spills, notes a government backgrounder.

In addition, the Oceans Protection Plan will set “tougher requirements on industry to provide quicker action for any spills from a ship,” it adds.

With regard to the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), the plan’s measures include increasing towing capacity by leasing two large vessels capable of towing commercial vessels and large container ships, as well as installing towing kits on CCG major vessels to improve capacity to take swift action to avoid disasters.

Related: Oil spill fears remain one year after bunker fuel fouled Vancouver beaches

The plan further calls for, among other things, the following:

  • constructing two new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat stations in Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • building two new radars in Atlantic Canada;
  • developing a new regional oil spill response plan for the northern region of the West Coast;
  • improving the northern operations of Canada’s National Aerial Surveillance Program, which will better local marine pollution reporting, search and rescue capacity and satellite monitoring of vessels offshore;
  • investing in research to support new and refined oceanographic oil spill trajectory models; and
  • re-opening the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre – which provides regional capacity to facilitate effective operational co-ordination and response to all-hazard marine incidents – in St. John’s.

The plan “will strengthen Canada’s Coast Guard to better serve Atlantic Canadians, while investing in better science to inform our decision-making and getting the right regulations in place to protect our precious coastlines and waterways for future generations,” LeBlanc maintains.

“Moving forward, Canada will be better equipped, better regulated and better prepared to protect marine environment and coastal communities, achieving a world-leading marine safety system,” notes the government statement. “These new measures will contribute to Canadians and to growing the middle-class.”

The Oceans Protection Plan “will support good jobs for middle-class Atlantic Canadians, help us better fulfill our environmental protection responsibilities to Canadians, advance our science, and keep our waters and wildlife safe for generations to come,” McKenna adds.