Canadian Underwriter

Federal government introduces proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act for ports or marine installations in northern B.C.

May 12, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The federal government has introduced a bill that would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil or “persistent oils” from stopping, loading or unloading any of these oils at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia.

Introduced on Friday, Bill C-48, the proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, applies to crude oil and related products, including partially upgraded bitumen, synthetic crude oil, petroleum pitch, slack wax and bunker C fuel oil, explained a backgrounder from Transport Canada. The legislation proposes flexibility for amendments, meaning that further refined petroleum products can be removed or added “on the basis of science and environmental safety.”

The proposed moratorium area extends from the Canada/United States border in the north, down to the point on British Columbia’s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and also includes Haida Gwaii. “Once the legislation is passed, it will provide a high level of protection for the Canadian coastline around Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound,” the backgrounder said.

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

Vessels carrying less than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil as cargo will continue to be permitted in the moratorium area to ensure northern communities can receive critical shipments of heating oils and other products, Transport Canada noted in a press release.

The legislation also proposes strong penalty provisions for contravention. “Penalties will be commensurate with the scale of violation and could reach up to $5 million,” the release said.

Since January 2016, the Government of Canada has held approximately 75 engagement sessions to discuss improvements to marine safety and formalizing the oil tanker moratorium.

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

“The Government of Canada is committed to demonstrating a clean environment and a strong economy can go hand-in-hand,” Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, said in the release. “Tabling this legislation is another step towards fulfilling our promise to formalize the tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s north coast. This, and other actions we are taking to improve marine safety through the Oceans Protection Plan, will protect the coasts and waterways that Canadians depend on for generations to come.”

The proposed act complements the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, a “national strategy to create a world-leading marine safety system,” the backgrounder said. As part of the plan, the government is also investing in increased capacity for the Canadian Coast Guard and in better oil spill prevention, response and clean-up measures.

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