Marine 101: What happens when a ship enters Canadian waters?


Marine safety matters to everyone who lives or works along Canada's coasts — especially those in coastal communities, which can be busy, active places.

At Transport Canada, we often get questions about how to help protect Canada’s coasts and waterways, and the people who travel on them.

Questions like… What happens when a ship enters Canadian waters?

There are a lot of strict regulations for ships to follow. These help prevent spills and other shipping incidents.

As they approach and enter Canadian waters, all vessels have to report where they’re going, what they’re carrying, any deficiencies in their navigation equipment, and if there’s any dangerous or polluting cargo on board, they are required to have an oil pollution emergency plan on board to address any potential oil spills. They are also required to conduct regular safety drills.

Transport Canada keeps an eye on these vessels through the National Aerial Surveillance Program with planes that can spot illegal discharges and even oil spills as small as just under a litre.

We also use satellites to watch for spills.

Buoys, markers, beacons and lights mark obstructions and shipping routes. Some make sounds to alert crews and ships themselves have a range of technologies on board to ensure safe navigation, such as radar, depth sounders, electronic charting and satellite navigation systems. In addition, the crew members must be properly trained and qualified.

Canadian authorities sometimes require tug escorts to help tankers move safely through certain areas, for example, when weather makes navigation more difficult.

In areas where navigation is busier and more hazardous, experienced, specially licensed marine pilots board ships to navigate harbours and busy waterways.

Transport Canada inspectors also board vessels — to inspect them and make sure they’re operating safely and following Canadian and international laws.

Canada benefits from an effective marine safety system that follows international standards. And it’s becoming even stronger under the new Oceans Protection Plan. This one-point-five-billion-dollar plan will help ensure Canada’s coasts and waterways are protected for generations to come.

You can learn more about the Oceans Protection Plan by visiting our website.

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