Marine Safety 101: What Happen When a Ship Spills Oil in Canadian Waters


Marine safety matters to Canadians—

— especially in coastal communities, which can be busy, active places.

At the Government of Canada, we often get questions about how we keep marine environments safe.

Questions like…

"What happens if a ship spills oil in Canadian waters?"

Canada has one of the strongest marine safety systems in the world, meeting or exceeding international standards.

Our system, which includes regular inspections of ships travelling our waters, goes a long way toward helping prevent spills.

Even so, while oil spills are rare, they can happen.

That's why we require foreign and domestic vessels operating in our waters to have emergency procedures in place.

They must also have an arrangement with a certified response organization in case an accident occurs.

If a spill occurs, National Aerial Surveillance Program planes fly over to determine how much oil is on the water.

The Canadian Coast Guard is Canada's on-water lead to ensure that all marine oil spills in Canadian waters are appropriately addressed.

The polluter pays for cleanup, and often relies on Transport Canada-certified Response Organizations to cleanup spills.

Response Organizations use specialized technology and equipment to contain the oil and remove it from the water. This helps stop spills from reaching the shore.

If the source of a spill is unknown, or the vessel operator is unable or unwilling to respond, the Coast Guard assumes responsibility for the cleanup.

Every reported spill is investigated to determine its cause.

And if we find evidence that Canada's marine safety laws have been violated, the Government of Canada can recommend prosecution of the shipper.

No matter who is at fault, Canada has a dedicated fund to compensate victims for damages for any kind of spill from any kind of ship.

It's all about protecting our coasts and our communities.

You can learn more about how we protect our coasts by visiting our website.

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