National Strategy to address Canada's wrecked and abandoned vessels


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, a small percentage of owners who 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 national strategy, focused on preventing and removing these problem vessels, is a key element of the Oceans Protection Plan.

This strategy includes:

Collectively, these 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

In 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)

In 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 (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 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.

The Abandoned Boats Program

Transport Canada’s five-year, $6.85 million Abandoned Boats Program, announced in 2017, provides 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:

The Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program, announced in 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 Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

A guide for applicants and additional information is available on Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s website at:

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