National Strategy to address Canada's wrecked and abandoned vessels

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada recognizes that wrecked and abandoned vessels can pose hazards to the environment, public health and safety, and local economies such as fishing and tourism industries.

Most owners are responsible and maintain and dispose of their vessels properly. However, the small percentage that are not responsible can create significant impacts on our coastal communities, with the burden for costly clean-up often falling on Canadian taxpayers.

In November 2016, the Government of Canada launched the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, to improve marine safety and responsible shipping, protect Canada’s marine environment and help advance Indigenous reconciliation.

This comprehensive strategy, focused on prevention and removal of these problem vessels, is a key element of the Oceans Protection Plan.

This strategy includes several measures:

  • Proposed Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act
    • Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007
  • Inventory and Assessments
  • Improving vessel owner identification
  • Long-term funding for the removal of wrecked and abandoned vessels
  • Abandoned Boats Program
  • Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program

Collectively, these new measures aim to reduce the number of problem vessels that pose hazards in Canadian waters, and support the preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems.

Proposed Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act

On October 30, 2017 the Government of Canada introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act. This will:

  • bring into Canadian law the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007;
  • address irresponsible vessel management by prohibiting: vessel abandonment; causing a vessel to become a wreck; or leaving a dilapidated (poor condition) vessel in the same area without consent;
  • strengthen owner responsibility and liability for their vessels, including costs for clean-up and removal; and
  • empower the federal government to address problem vessels more proactively.

NAIROBI INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION ON THE REMOVAL OF WRECKS, 2007 (NAIROBI CONVENTION)

On September 21, 2017, the Government of Canada tabled the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007. The Nairobi Convention strengthens ship owners’ liability for hazardous wrecks resulting from marine incidents. Once brought into force of law in Canada, vessel owners will be strictly liable for locating, marking, and, if necessary, removing at their cost a wreck that poses a hazard.

Owners of large commercial vessels of 300 gross tonnes and above will also be required to maintain insurance or other financial security to cover the potential costs related to the locating, marking and removal of the wreck.

Inventory and Assessments

An on-going inventory of wrecked and abandoned vessels will be developed. This inventory will be kept up to date and include risk assessments to guide and help prioritize future actions on high risk vessels.

Improving Vessel Owner Identification

The effectiveness of the proposed new legislation will rely on the ability to identify vessel owners.  The Government is working with provinces and territories to collaborate on ways to further enhance the pleasure craft licensing system, and has launched a study to assess gaps in Canada’s commercial vessel registration systems.

Long-Term Funding for the Removal of Wrecked and Abandoned Vessels

As part of the national strategy on wrecked and abandoned vessels and as part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government is looking at options to establish vessel-owner financed funds to address large and small high risk vessels over the longer-term.

Abandoned Boats Program

Transport Canada’s five-year, $6.85 million Abandoned Boats Program, announced on May 31, 2017, is available to provide grant and contribution funding to:

  • assist communities in the assessment, removal and disposal of existing high-priority abandoned and/or wrecked small boats posing hazards in Canadian waters;
  • educate small-boat owners about how to responsibly manage their end-of-life boats; and
  • support research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design.

A guide for applicants and additional information is available on Transport Canada's website at: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/abandoned-boats-program.html

Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program, announced on September 7, 2017, will provide up to $1.325 million over five years to Harbour Authorities and other eligible recipients to remove and dispose of abandoned and/or wrecked vessels located in small craft harbours owned by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

A guide for applicants and additional information is available on Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s website at: www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/sch-ppb/vessels-bateaux/index-eng.html

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