Crude oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast


On May 12, 2017, the Government of Canada introduced C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in Parliament that seeks to formalize an oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s north coast.

The proposed Act would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading any of these oils at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia. 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.

This proposed moratorium will complement the existing voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, which has been in place since 1985.

Products Covered

The Act will apply to the shipment of crude oils as defined by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. It will also apply to related oil products that are heavier and when spilled, break up and dissipate slowly.

A complete list of these persistent products included in the proposed moratorium is outlined in a schedule to the proposed Act. Below are examples of related oil products included and not included in the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act.

Examples of related oil products included in the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

  • Partially upgraded bitumen
  • Synthetic crude oil
  • Petroleum pitch
  • Slack wax
  • Bunker C fuel oil

Examples of related oil products not included in the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

  • Liquefied natural gas
  • Gasoline
  • Naphtha
  • Jet fuel
  • Propane

Amendment protocol

Amendments to the schedule could be considered following a regulatory review to assess the latest developments in science and evidence on the fate and behaviour of a petroleum product when spilled, and the state of clean up technology and oil spill response capacity. Environmental safety will be the main consideration for any additions or deletions to the product list through the regulatory process.

Enforcement and non-compliance

To reinforce the seriousness of the Government of Canada’s commitment to the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, the proposed legislation includes an enforcement regime and penalty provisions. Penalties will be commensurate with the scale of violation and could reach up to $5 million.

Oceans Protection Plan

The proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act complements the Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), a national strategy to create a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines for future generations. This is the largest investment ever made in our oceans and waterways. The OPP will involve new measures to improve marine safety and responsible shipping, protect Canada’s marine environment, and offer new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities.

As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government is investing in increased capacity for the Canadian Coast Guard and in better oil spill prevention, response and clean up measures.

The Government of Canada is engaging Indigenous groups, as well as coastal communities and Canadians across the country, to share their ideas on how we can work together through the OPP to create a stronger marine safety system and better protect our coasts.

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