Transport Canada joins international effort to combat marine pollution


Alan Knight with Transport Canada and Diane Kettle with Environment and Climate Change Canada inspect a ship as part of an INTERPOL-led operation to combat marine pollution.

As a Transport Canada surveillance plane flew through the night sky with its lights off and cabin glow dimmed, the crew prepared to carry out a special mission.

The operation – code named 30 Days at Sea – was simple: join international forces for the first-ever global action to combat marine pollution. Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada were proud to partner with INTERPOL and 276 law enforcement and environmental agencies from 58 countries.

Two Transport Canada National Aerial Surveillance Program aircraft flew after sunset along the East Coast for the first two weeks in October and the West Coast for the last half of the month. They were searching for something harming our planet and those who live on it – pollution from passing ships.

Vessels likely had no idea they were being watched by infrared technology as our planes quietly hovered 5,000 feet above. Two surveillance officers on board monitored the sensor equipment to look for oil pollution and illegal garbage dumping.

During this international operation, Transport Canada’s planes flew almost 100 hours over 640 vessels. More than 20,000 vessels were also monitored through the aircraft’s automatic identification system. As the lead for pollution prevention in Canadian waters, Transport Canada keeps a watchful eye over ships through our National Aerial Surveillance Program.

Before the crew took off for nighttime surveillance, they arranged clearance to fly in restricted airspace and received an exemption to fly the plane without lights. During a pre-operation briefing, the crew flagged vessels, and developed a flight plan based on the weather and areas with the most vessel traffic.

As our planes patrolled the oceans in search of polluters, our marine safety inspectors and Environment and Climate Change Canada officers jointly inspected vessels, in addition to their usual operations.

Marine safety inspectors used information from the National Aerial Surveillance Program flights to decide on which vessels to inspect during the operation.

The hours-long inspections focused on oil, sewage and garbage. Engineers also tested the equipment on board to make sure it functioned properly and questioned the crew on emergency and operating procedures. Information from these inspections and overflights is being compiled and could lead to future investigations.

Effective pollution prevention regulations protect Canada’s waterways through the watchful eyes of our inspectors, officers and flight crews. We are proud of our robust regime to keep our waterways clean and sustainable for years to come.