On this page
- Proposed changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001
- Improving marine emergency management
- Preparing and responding to marine incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substances
- Modernizing how we regulate to better respond to local marine safety and environmental risks
- Encouraging people and companies to follow the rules, and ensuring appropriate enforcement if they do not
- We want to hear your views
Canada is a maritime country. It has the longest coastline in the world. Our waters move people and goods, and they connect Canada to the world. We need safe and efficient shipping through our waters that will not hurt the environment.
Marine shipping is a large part of Canada’s economy and is important for our supply chains. Almost half (48%) of Canada’s trade with countries other than the United States uses marine shipping. Sixty percent ($88 billion) of Canadian exports and 40% ($110 billion) of imports from countries other than the United States are transported by ship.
The volume of marine traffic on Canada’s waterways will continue to grow. There are more sizes and kinds of vessels. The variety of cargo they carry is changing and the volume of cargo is growing. Some of the cargo includes substances that can harm our environment. International standards, on-board technology and how vessels operate continue to improve. However, recent marine incidents have shown we could do better in preventing and responding to emergencies. This is very important if there is a complicated emergency when substances on the vessel could enter our waters and harm the environment and coastal communities.
Canadians expect the federal government to protect our communities and the marine environment. At the same time, we need marine shipping to get goods to market and to bring supplies to communities and businesses. To find the right balance, the Government of Canada works with the marine industry, coastal and Indigenous communities, scientists, the international community, and all Canadians to make sure that we have a strong marine safety system.
More information about marine safety in Canada can be found on-line.
Canada’s marine safety system is world leading. It has more than 100 regulations, 30 laws, and many international agreements. Since the 1970s, there has been a steep drop in the number of pollution incidents from vessels in Canada’s waters. Key federal departments working to improve marine safety and environmental protection are:
- Transport Canada,
- Canadian Coast Guard,
- Environment and Climate Change Canada, and
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
An important part of the federal government’s work to keep waterways safe and to protect the environment is the Oceans Protection Plan. It protects Canada’s coasts in several ways:
- strengthening the safety of marine shipping,
- protecting marine ecosystems,
- creating stronger partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities, and
- researching and collecting more and better data for making decisions.
As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, the federal government’s 2022 budget announced our intention to make changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The possible changes include enabling the proactive management of marine emergencies and covering more types of pollution. These proposed changes consider comments from Indigenous peoples, coastal communities, and marine stakeholders in all coastal regions over the past few years. We heard:
- Prevention is extremely important to avoid marine incidents in the first place, including pollution incidents. If a marine incident occurs, it is also very important to be proactive in managing incidents to minimize impacts on the environment, coastal communities, and access to traditional sites
- General support to make sure that Canada is prepared and able to respond quickly and effectively to marine incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances other than oil; and
- Some Indigenous peoples and local communities are interested in having an active role in managing local waterways.
Now we want to hear from you about potential changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. In response to previous comments and recent marine incidents, this discussion paper is about the possible changes to this law in four key areas:
- Improving how marine emergencies are managed,
- Preparing and responding to marine incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substances,
- Updating our regulatory approaches so we can better respond to local marine safety issues and environmental risks, and
- Encouraging people and companies to follow the rules and making sure that the consequences are appropriate if they do not.
We want to know:
- Which proposed changes are important and/or urgent for you?
- How would these proposed changes affect your communities and businesses?
- What could be the most important risks or benefits if we make these proposed changes?
Please email your comments on this discussion paper to: email@example.com.
Your comments will be used to support government and Parliament’s discussions and decisions on the proposed changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Many of the proposed changes to this law would enable changes to regulations or programs in the future. If the changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are approved by Parliament, we will want to hear from you again when regulatory and program activities are proposed.
The contents of this paper, and any comments received, are for discussion purposes only and are not binding on the Government of Canada or on any other party.
Proposed changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001
1. Improving marine emergency management
Canadian regulations and international agreements require the shipowner or Master to be responsible for the safety and control of the vessel, its operations, crew, passengers, and cargo. This includes being prepared for and managing accidents or emergencies. The shipowner or Master is also responsible for making sure that there is effective response to pollution incidents from their vessel. Right now, the shipowner or Master must:
- report the vessel’s cargo and planned route at least 96 hours before entering Canadian waters,
- make sure appropriate safety, communications, and navigational equipment is on-board,
- make sure emergency plans and procedures are in place, including for an oil spill,
- make sure the crew is properly trained and qualified to operate the vessel and its equipment, and can carry out emergency plans and procedures,
- give maritime documents and other information to certain officials, like marine safety inspectors, to show they are meeting international and Canadian requirements, and
- fix or resolve any problems with the vessel that are found so it is seaworthy and meets all requirements before it leaves port.
When there is an emergency, there may not be very much time to respond to it. An emergency can become serious very quickly and can cause serious injuries or even loss of life. It can also harm the environment and coastal communities. Marine emergences may impact supply chains and the economy by stopping or slowing the movement of goods. Being prepared and responding earlier can limit impacts and prevent an emergency from happening in the first place or from getting worse. At the same time, we need to understand the possible costs and impacts that an earlier response could have on a vessel’s operations.
Some recent marine incidents show that we have some limits in responding to marine emergencies. For example, some vessels were not allowed to enter a port where response could have been safer or more effective. Instead, the vessel sometimes remained on waters where it was not safe for the crew and the environment around it could have been harmed.
The Government of Canada is thinking about changing the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to ensure that marine emergencies are managed better. This includes enabling Transport Canada to step in earlier when there is an emergency from a vessel. At the same time, the shipowner or Master must still be responsible for being prepared and responding to emergencies. Combined with what Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard can already do, the proposed changes would better prevent and respond to all types of emergencies on all types of vessels.
We are proposing to change the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to:
- Enable Transport Canada to direct vessels to take the necessary actions when there is a major risk to marine safety. This may include moving the vessel to a new location or giving information to Transport Canada to help with emergency response. This proposed power would work with Transport Canada’s and the Canadian Coast Guard’s existing powers to reduce the risks and impacts of a pollution incident.
- Require certain types and classes of commercial vessels to have arrangements in place to access emergency services in case they are needed. Examples include marine firefighting and recovering a damaged or disabled vessel or its cargo. In addition, we are proposing changes to the law so that Transport Canada would be able to make regulations about these arrangements. Currently, some vessels, like oil tankers, must have arrangements with Transport Canada-certified Response Organizations to respond to an oil spill. A similar requirement for other types of emergency response services does not currently exist. We want to make sure that the shipowner or Master can quickly access other kinds of emergency response services.
- Give Transport Canada the power to direct ports and other marine facilities to let in vessels in need of help. This would let vessels move into safer waters to limit risks to crew, passengers, cargo, the vessel itself, and the environment. It would also allow the vessel to be repaired or take other actions so it can meet safety and environmental requirements.
- Putting in place criminal and civil sanctions on those who do not follow the requirements listed above. These sanctions would be aligned with Transport Canada's Enforcement Policy under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Under the policy, sanctions range from verbal warnings, assurances of compliance, written warnings, administrative monetary penalties, fines, and imprisonment.
2. Preparing and responding to marine incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substances
Under the Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co\-operation to pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000 (also known as the Hazardous and Noxious Substance Protocol), hazardous and noxious substances are defined as:
“Any substance other than oil which if introduced into the marine environment is likely to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea”
Shipping hazardous and noxious substances in Canadian waters is an important part of Canada’s economy. They make up about 20% of all goods exported by marine shipping in Canada. Hazardous and noxious substances can include substances transported in bulk as liquids, liquefied gases, solid materials and materials in packaged form. Canadians use these substances almost every day in household goods (like cell phones and refrigerators), infrastructure (like roads, buildings, etc.), agriculture, manufacturing, and more.
Canada has a system to help prevent marine incidents in our waters, including:
- aids to navigation,
- vessel traffic services zones,
- mandatory reporting,
- compliance monitoring, and
This system helps vessels move safely in Canadian waters, including ones carrying hazardous and noxious substances. Under international agreements, containers for hazardous and noxious substances are labelled. There are also detailed requirements for packing, container traffic, and stowage. Hazardous and noxious substances are often required to be separated from other substances as they could be dangerous if they come in contact with each other.
The number of vessels carrying hazardous and noxious substances in Canadian waters is expected to grow 62% by 2030. Marine incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substance are rare, but if they happen, there may be risks for responders and the public. An incident could harm the environment and marine life. It could also disrupt Canada’s supply chains and affect the broader economy by stopping or slowing down the shipping of these substances. The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 already has a general framework for responding to marine pollution incidents. We want to make this stronger by putting in place a legal framework specifically for hazardous and noxious substances.
Having a legal framework for preparing for and responding to marine incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances would also help Canada to accede to the Hazardous and Noxious Substances Protocol. This would mean better international cooperation and access to equipment, personnel, expertise, and support from other countries if there is an incident involving hazardous and noxious substances.
The proposed changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 would make the shipowners and hazardous and noxious substances handling facilities responsible for preparing for and responding to a release of hazardous and noxious substances. This is similar for legal requirements for oil spills under the “polluter pays principle”.
The Government of Canada would continue to monitor industry’s response efforts. Similar to what we already do if there is an oil spill from a vessel, we would be a “safety net” if the polluter is unwilling, unknown, or unable to respond to a spill. We would send additional people, expertise, and equipment if there was not enough to respond to an incident involving hazardous and noxious substances.
We are exploring changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to put in place a legal framework for preparing for and responding to marine incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances. This includes:
- making key definitions clearer,
- building on what we already have in place for oil spills and applying it to hazardous and noxious substances, and
- making sure that the rules are followed, and that enforcement action can be taken if they do not.
Making key definitions clearer
What are hazardous and noxious substances? (Proposed Definition)
Any substance other than oil that, if introduced into the marine environment from a ship or hazardous and noxious substances handling facility, is likely to:
- create hazards to human health
- harm living resources and marine life
- damage amenities
- interfere with other legitimate uses of Canada’s waters
We are proposing changes to the law to:
- Include a definition of hazardous and noxious substances that would apply to hazardous and noxious substances if they are either fuel or cargo,
- Clarify the definition of “pollutants” and “discharges” to include hazardous and noxious substances, and
- Make it clear that legislative and regulatory requirements would cover both vessels and “hazardous and noxious substances handling facilities”. These are facilities where hazardous and noxious substances are loaded on or off ships such as a marine liquefied natural gas terminal or port facilities handling fertilizer
Building on oil spill requirements
Similar to how marine oil spill preparedness and response are regulated, we want to make changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 so that Transport Canada could regulate:
- The types and classes of vessels that would be required to follow the law and regulations for the marine shipping of hazardous and noxious substances (“prescribed vessels”). It would not matter if the hazardous and noxious substances are carried as fuel or cargo. Prescribed hazardous and noxious handling facilities would also be required to follow the legal requirements,
- Pollution emergency plans for responding to emergencies involving hazardous and noxious substances. This would include when plans are required, the details of the plan, and when it should be used. These plans would be similar to existing requirements for oil tankers, larger vessels, and oil handling facilities, but with some additional requirements. For those vessels or oil handling facilities that may also carry hazardous and noxious substances, we are exploring adding requirements for hazardous and noxious substances to the existing Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan and Shipboard Marine Pollution Emergency Plan (for prescribed vessels), and Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (for oil handling facilities),
- A requirement to report a potential or actual incident involving hazardous and noxious substances. This is similar to what is done for oil spills, and
- Above, we proposed making changes to the law to require certain vessels to have arrangements for emergency services. This would include emergency services for vessels carrying hazardous and noxious substances. Because there is a large variety of hazardous and noxious substances, there can be risks to people and the environment if those substances come into contact with water or air, other cargo on the vessel, or materials used to respond to a spill. Special expertise could be needed to respond to a discharge of hazardous and noxious substances.
As the federal lead for on-water response to pollution incidents, changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are proposed to make it clear that the Canadian Coast Guard’s existing powers includes incidents where there is a potential or actual discharge of hazardous and noxious substances from a vessel or a hazardous and noxious substances handling facility.
Making sure that the rules are followed and taking enforcement action if they do not
We want to be able to do inspections and other activities to make sure that vessels and hazardous and noxious substance handling facilities follow the requirements for preparing for and responding to incidents that involve hazardous and noxious substances. If requirements are not followed, the shipowner or Master, or facility operator could face administrative monetary penalties or criminal sanctions.
Liability and compensation
The Marine Liability Act makes the shipowner responsible for the costs, expenses, losses, and damage resulting from a pollution discharge. This includes preventing and responding to a pollution discharge from a ship. It also covers expenses for the Canadian Coast Guard or other responders that are directed by it.
Canada is also party to the 2010 Protocol to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea. When it comes into force internationally, it would:
- require the shipowner carrying hazardous and noxious substances to have private insurance to pay for losses, damage, and response costs if those substances are released. This requirement would include ships that carry hazardous and noxious substances that are carried in bulk, packages, or containers, and
- provide claimants access to an international compensation fund, adding to compensation paid by the shipowner through their private insurance. Businesses that receive hazardous and noxious substances in bulk would pay into this fund.
This Convention addresses a wide range of losses and damage that may result from a marine discharge of hazardous and noxious substances. These include:
- loss of life,
- personal injury,
- preventive measures,
- clean-up costs,
- economic losses, and
- environmental damage.
At this time, we are not considering other changes to Canada’s liability and compensation regime for hazardous and noxious substances incidents.
3. Modernizing how we regulate to better respond to local marine safety and environmental risks
We must deal with local marine safety and environmental risks quickly. To do this, we need a modern, flexible approach to update regulations sooner and more efficiently. Updating regulations using the standard regulatory process could take up to 24 months. This means that our regulations would fall behind evolving local risks and conditions, which would limit the effectiveness of marine safety or environmental measures.
Making how we regulate quicker and more efficient
The federal government is thinking about changing the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to enable Transport Canada to use modern regulatory practices. One potential change would be the ability to incorporate by reference technical and administrative standards and requirements by Transport Canada as part of federal regulations. Examples of this include:
- where local navigation and safety measures would apply,
- the dates or time that the measures would be in effect, or
- the details of a restriction, such as speed or engine size limits.
A simpler regulatory process to update administrative or technical requirements means they could be put in place sooner. For example, the proposed changes could help the federal government:
- update local vessel operating restrictions sooner and more efficiently,
- designate waters where anchorage or navigation restrictions may apply, and
- designate new sewage areas subject to additional protection.
Temporary ministerial orders to address local marine safety and environmental risks
To respond to local risks faster, the government is looking at changing the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to allow time-limited ministerial orders. At this time, Transport Canada regulates vessel operations in local waters, including:
- speed limits,
- days and hours of operation, and
- prohibiting some sporting or recreational activities.
It can take a long time to update federal regulations to cover local navigation, boating safety, and to protect the local marine environment. While regulatory updates are made, Transport Canada encourages voluntary measures by local authorities. However, since these measures are voluntary, they cannot be enforced.
We are proposing changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 so that the Minister of Transport may issue temporary ministerial orders that would last for up to two years. These orders would create new types of restrictions for local marine navigation. This approach would put local restrictions in place sooner and allow them to be enforced. This length of time would give clarity and stability to local communities. It would allow planning, public communications, and changes to operations in advance of the sailing season. It also allows Transport Canada and local authorities to see how well these requirements work. It would give local communities and businesses the opportunity to provide their feedback before changes to regulations are put in place permanently.
4. Encouraging people and companies to follow the rules, and ensuring appropriate enforcement if they do not
Clarifying who is responsible for vessels to meet rules
The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 requires the owner of a Canadian vessel to be its Authorized Representative. Transport Canada marine safety inspectors must be able to talk to the person or company who is responsible for day-to-day operations and makes sure the rules are being followed. This can be a challenge when the vessel’s owner is not directly involved in the vessel’s operations, like a bank. Not knowing who to talk to can cause delays, which could increase marine safety or environmental risks.
We are exploring changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 that would:
- allow someone other than the ship’s owner to be an Authorized Representative of a Canadian vessel,
- require the shipowner to list the contact information for the Authorized Representative when they register the vessel or renew its registry, and
- strengthen how we protect the environment by giving the Authorized Representative more responsibilities for preventing pollution discharges. This would be on top of their existing responsibilities for vessel safety and environmental protection.
Expanding the use of Administrative Monetary Penalties and updating fine amounts
Transport Canada Enforcement Tools
Learn more information on Transport Canada’s Enforcement Policy, which includes:
- warning letters or verbal counselling,
- assurances of compliance (like formal opportunities for a person or vessel to correct a violation, subject to an Administrative monetary penalty if the issue is not fully corrected),
- vessel detention,
- suspension or cancellation of Canadian Maritime Documents (like licences, permits, certificates),
- Administrative Monetary Penalties, and
- summary conviction leading to fines and/or imprisonment
If a person or company does not follow the rules, Transport Canada can require that they pay administrative monetary penalties. These are used as an enforcement tool for many marine safety and environmental regulations.
At this time, if people or companies break rules for safe navigation and rules for pleasure craft, they are charged with a crime. The punishment can be up to a year in prison, a fine up to $100,000 for some crimes, or a combination of time in prison plus a fine.
We are looking at making two changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.
First, we propose using administrative monetary penalties if people or the environment are not at risk when the rules for safe navigation and pleasure craft are not followed. For example:
- information management and reporting,
- vessel registration and markings, and
The current criminal punishment may be too harsh for these minor violations. The administrative monetary penalty would be up to $250,000 per violation. This amount is the same as the maximum amount if marine safety and environmental requirements for commercial shipping are not followed.
These proposed amendments would also strengthen enforcement of vessel owner identification requirements. Importers, manufacturers and retailers of pleasure crafts could face tougher penalties if they do not affix proper identification codes and serial numbers to pleasure craft. This can complement efforts to prevent and address abandoned and wrecked vessels in Canadian waters.
Second, we also propose increasing the maximum criminal fine of $10,000 for some crimes to $25,000. The $10,000 amount was set almost 20 years ago and might not be enough to discourage people and businesses from breaking the rules.
We want to hear your views
Canada has a strong marine safety system. We have a proven track record of preventing and ensuring effective response to marine incidents. However, as the marine traffic levels, and the amount and types of cargo grow and evolve, our rules must adapt as marine safety and environmental risks also change.
As part of the Oceans Protection Plan, Budget 2022 announced that the Government of Canada intends to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. These amendments would:
- strengthen how marine emergencies are managed, including enabling Transport Canada to step in earlier to prevent a marine emergency from happening or becoming worse;
- improve how Canada prepares for and responds to marine incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances
- improve how we regulate to better respond to local navigation and environmental risks
- strengthen how we make sure that the rules are being followed and ensuring the enforcement action is appropriate to the risks and impacts of a violation.
If these possible changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are approved by Parliament, this would lead to changes to regulations and programs in the future. You will be able to give feedback to these future regulations and programs before they happen.
At this time, the Government of Canada wants to hear what you think about the proposed changes to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 that were described in this paper. We want to know:
- what changes are important and/or urgent for you?
- how could the changes affect your communities and businesses?
- what are the most important risks or benefits if these proposed changes are put in place?
If you have comments on the proposed legislative amendments, please email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.