Marine Safety 101: Who pays for an oil spill in Canadian waters?


Marine safety matters to Canadians – especially in coastal communities, which can be busy, active places.

We often gets questions about how we keep marine environments safe. Questions like…

“Who pays for an oil spill in Canadian waters?”

In Canada, the polluter pays. Even if pollution is accidental, the ship owner is responsible for paying to cover any damages resulting from the spill.

For spills involving a ship’s fuel, the ship is liable up to a limit based on its size. The larger the ship, the higher the limit of liability. Additional sources of compensation, funded by industry, are also available.

Compensation for spills from oil tankers are provided by shipowners and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds. The shipowner and international funds can provide up to $1.37 billion.

Anyone in Canada who has suffered damage or experienced losses from a spill of any type of oil, from any type of ship can also file a claim with Canada’s Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund. The Fund provides compensation for 100% of eligible claims.

Eligible claims include:

  • pollution prevention measures
  • clean-up costs
  • property damage
  • fishing and tourism losses
  • subsistence fishing and hunting losses
  • environmental remediation costs

Also, if your ability to fish or obtain fish for food, social or ceremonial purposes is impacted, you can submit a claim. Claims are accepted up to two years from the date of damage, but no more than five years after the incident that led to the pollution.

If your claim is under $35,000 and is submitted to the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund within one year of the incident, you will be compensated within 60 days.

Thanks to safety improvements, it has never been safer to ship in Canadian waters. The number of oil spills and the volume of oil spilt has decreased by 95% since the 1970s. Even with a lower risk of oil spills, we’re still improving how Canadians are compensated for spills.

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