Proposed Oceans Protection Plan legislative changes


Vessel traffic and cargo volumes are expected to increase on all of Canada’s coasts, as overseas trade and the movement of goods grow. The Government of Canada recognizes that as shipping grows, there may be increased environmental and marine safety risks. These may include the disruption of important marine habitats, disturbance of marine animals, and an increased risk of oil spills from ships.

In addition to advances in marine safety requirements and practices, there is a need for strengthened legal authorities to more quickly and effectively respond to marine pollution incidents, and to protect marine ecosystems and habitats.

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.

The proposed Oceans Protection Plan legislative changes, aimed at supporting safe and environmentally responsible shipping, are a key element of the Oceans Protection Plan. The Government has been clear that the environment and the economy go hand in hand, and this is further demonstration of that commitment.

Two inter-related pieces of legislation would be amended: the Canada Shipping Act, 2001; and the Marine Liability Act.

Part 1 amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to strengthen marine environmental protection and response.

Part 2 amends the Marine Liability Act to modernize Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund.

Part 1: Strengthening marine environmental protection and response

Canada’s marine safety system is comprehensive, with international and domestic components. The primary legislation is the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 which:

  • Protects the health and well-being of people and the environment;
  • Regulates marine transportation so that it is safe, environmentally responsible, and efficient; and
  • Provides authority to investigate and take appropriate enforcement action, if necessary.

Marine Environmental Protection

Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 strengthen safeguards to protect the marine environment from the impacts of shipping and navigation. The proposed amendments strengthen Transport Canada’s ability to put in place regulatory requirements to protect marine environments and animals, including endangered whale populations, as as well as allow for immediate actions to be taken in urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

Environmental Response

Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard’s authority to intervene in a ship-source pollution incident on a proactive basis, and related amendments facilitate a faster and more effective response, while maintaining the polluter pays principle.

Enhanced Deterrence and Enforcement

Other amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 enhance deterrence and encourage compliance with marine safety and environmental regulatory requirements by increasing the maximum amount of Administrative Monetary Penalties to $250,000 per infraction.

Support Research and Innovation

Amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 will enable the Minister of Transport to provide time-limited exemptions from regulatory requirements and standards, for the purpose of promoting innovation to enhance marine safety and environmental protection.

Part 2: Modernizing Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund

Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund was established to ensure the payment of claims for marine oil pollution that originates from ships. It is designed to supplement the ship owner’s liability for oil pollution. It is considered a fund of last resort, following the ship owner being held responsible and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds being accessed (if applicable), in the case of a an oil spill incident in Canadian waters. It can also be a fund of first resort, allowing Canadians to seek compensation directly from the Fund.

Amendments to the Marine Liability Act will modernize Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund as follows:

  • The Fund’s existing per-incident limit of liability is removed, so that unlimited compensation is available to responders and victims of a ship-source oil spill;

  • The Fund may receive temporary funds from the federal government in the unlikely event that it is depleted;

  • The Fund’s levy is modernized so that it may be replenished following an incident;

  • The Canadian Coast Guard may be compensated by the Fund when intervening earlier during a ship-source pollution incident, and may receive up-front emergency funding for significant incidents; and

  • There is a fast-track, simplified process for small claims to the Fund.

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