Improving marine safety through the Oceans Protection Plan

We are working with Indigenous and coastal communities, the marine industry and other stakeholders to develop and improve Canada’s marine safety system. To do so, we have developed initiatives that are part of our $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. This plan is a national strategy to create a world-leading marine safety system. It provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines for future generations

The Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made in Canada's coasts and waterways, and will:

  • improve marine safety and responsible shipping
  • protect Canada's marine environment
  • offer new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities

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Oceans Protection Plan overview


Oceans Protection Plan

Canada’s coasts and waterways are an important facet of Canadian life and culture. They are a workplace for some and a playground for others. They allow us to travel and exchange goods. They are a source of inspiration and pride for us all. The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada's coasts and waterways, while growing our economy. With this Plan, future generations will continue to enjoy and benefit from this key part of Canada’s identity.


  • Create a world-leading marine safety system that protects Canada’s waters.
  • Restore and protect marine ecosystems and habitats.
  • Create stronger local emergency response capacity by establishing Indigenous partnerships and by engaging coastal communities.
  • Invest in oil spill cleanup research and methods to ensure that decisions taken to protect the marine environment are evidence-based.

OPP engagement approach

Partnership and collaboration are the foundation of the Government of Canada’s actions to protect our coasts. We are partnering with Indigenous peoples and coastal communities and seeking their advice and traditional knowledge in a number of areas concerning the Oceans Protection Plan. Our engagement is locally coordinated, transparent, collaborative, and supports reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Federal government and partners

  • Transport Canada
  • Fisheries and Oceans
    • Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada

In partnership with

  • Local Communities
  • Stakeholders
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Marine Industry

More information: Protecting our coasts

Preserving ecosystems

  • Conserve or restore marine ecosystems through the $75-million Coastal Restoration Fund, and Marine Mammal Response and Marine Protected Area Surveillance Program.
  • Mitigate the risks of shipping on marine mammals and the environment like underwater noise through assessments of current and potential mitigation measures; and, marine environmental quality assessments.
  • Assess the impacts of marine shipping on the environment by evaluating cumulative impacts of shipping in key ecosystems, and building a program to assess potential impacts of future development.
  • Eliminate abandoned boats and wrecks by developing a plan that focusses on prevention, removal and recycling, making vessel owners liable for any cost of clean-up and through education and outreach programs.
  • Collect environmental baseline data through engagement with Indigenous peoples and coastal communities.

Evidence-based decision making

  • Better understand oil spills in water with research funding on how oil behaves in water, multi-partner research funding on oil spill response technology, and oil spill drift prediction.
  • Conduct research to improve measures for oil spill response planning and clean-up.

Partnership and engagement

  • Build Indigenous partnerships in the marine safety system, creating two new Coast Guard Auxiliary chapters; launching an Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer program; and creating Indigenous Community Response Teams.
  • Develop oceans collaborative management frameworks with the public, Indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.
  • Increase participation of Indigenous peoples, coastal communities and women by providing training opportunities and including Indigenous Traditional Knowledge in decision making.
  • Create national public forums for Canadians to discuss shipping safety and environmental issues.

World-leading marine safety

  • Provide and share real-time marine traffic information with local communities.
  • Collaborate on local marine traffic management, including establishing speed restrictions and safe passage routes.
  • Improve incident management toward seamless response by implementing the Incident Command System; new mobile command posts; and, marine communications and traffic services delivery.
  • Expand risk-based response planning tailored to local needs through enhanced risk analysis of maritime search and rescue.
  • Modernize legislation and regulations to strengthen the polluter pay principle by amending the Ship-Source Pollution Fund to include access to adequate compensation and amending the Pilotage Act and other shipping regulations.
  • Modernize hydrography and charting in key areas, as well as near shore and high-priority ports.
  • Increase on-water presence and marine emergency response capacity by implementing Primary Environmental Response Teams and modernizing Coast Guard environmental response equipment.
  • Expand the role of Coast Guard Auxiliary to include environmental response training.
  • Invest in safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure through additional RADAR sites, new tow kits on Coast Guard’s large vessels, and improved maritime communications capabilities including enhancements to Marine Communications and Traffic Centres.

More information: Protecting our coasts









Abandoned Boats Programs

Abandoned small vessels in Canada have economic and environmental impacts on local communities. They can pollute the marine environment and disrupt local businesses, such as tourism and fisheries. They can also damage infrastructure, interfere with navigation, and pose safety risks.

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada has a comprehensive strategy featuring two funding programs to address abandoned and wrecked vessels: the Abandoned Boats Program and the Small Craft Harbours, Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program.


Abandoned Boats Programs
[PDF, 258 KB]


Addressing Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels in Canada

On November 7, 2016, the Government of Canada announced a comprehensive national strategy to address abandoned and wrecked vessels in Canadian waters. The national strategy focuses on both prevention and removal:

  1. In October 2017, we introduced the About the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act (Bill C-64) in Parliament. For more details on the Act, please consult the About the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act page.
  2. We launched two short-term funding programs to help remove and dispose of small boats:
  3. We are also working to improve the pleasure craft licensing and the commercial vessel registration systems to ensure we can identify boat owners and hold them responsible for their boat throughout its life, including its proper disposal.
  4. We are exploring options for long-term funding to remove large and small abandoned and wrecked vessels. This will reduce the burden on Canadians and their communities.
  5. We are developing a national inventory of problem vessels and a risk assessment process to help us prioritize and determine how to handle these vessels.
  6. Finally, Canada is taking steps to bring the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 into force in Canada through Bill C-64.

Alternative Response Measures

Canada’s current approach to managing ship-source oil spills uses mechanical tools, such as booms and skimmers, to contain and collect the oil.

The Alternative Response Measures initiative will expand the range of options available to respond to oil spills in the water. Alternative measures include techniques like burning the oil and using dispersants that reduce the concentration of oil. Measures like these have been used successfully in responding to major spills elsewhere in the world.

The overall goal of this initiative is to better protect Canada’s coasts and waterways by reducing the impact of an oil spill on the environment and other important resources.

This information is also available in:



As a trading nation, Canada needs an efficient marine transportation system. This system includes anchorages in and near Canada’s busy ports.

The right to anchor a vessel is part of the common law right of navigation. A vessel is free to anchor temporarily and for a reasonable period of time in any appropriate location, unless specifically prohibited by statute or regulation. While anchored in Canadian waters, ships must adhere to safety and security rules, as well as measures for managing light, noise and ballast water at all times, consistent with international requirements and domestic laws.

Port Authorities assign and manage anchorages within their boundaries. When these anchorages and terminals are full, vessels must find another place to anchor until space becomes available. In some parts of Canada, the use of coastal anchorages has increased over the past decade owing to multiple factors, such as increased trade, supply-chain coordination challenges as well as operational impacts such as poor weather and other disruptions to port and transportation system activities.

Through the Anchorages initiative, Transport Canada officials are examining ways to reduce anchorage use and transits by commercial vessels, while also advancing active traffic management solutions to mitigate socio-environmental impacts.

Transport Canada continues to work with the marine industry and engage with Indigenous groups, community organizations and stakeholders to advance this initiative.


[PDF, 309 KB]


Arctic inshore rescue boat station

An important part of Canada’s maritime search and rescue system, the crews of Canada’s Inshore Rescue Boat program respond to marine distress calls and provide assistance to mariners in distress or in need of assistance. Crews provide on-scene assistance, First Aid and Medevac transport as required, and aid to disabled vessels. These activities occur at any time of the day or night, during all types of weather and sea conditions. The Government of Canada is creating an Inshore Rescue Boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. This first station in the Arctic will provide seasonal search and rescue capabilities in this region.


Arctic presence

The Canadian Coast Guard is proud to serve Northerners, and is always at the ready to provide search and rescue and emergency response services in the Arctic.

We also provide essential Arctic icebreaking services for commercial ships, ferries and fishing vessels in ice-covered Canadian waters. These services include:

  • providing vessel escorts
  • managing and coordinating harbour breakouts
  • maintaining shipping routes
  • providing ice information services

This work ensures safe navigation, prevents ice jams and flooding, and maintains open routes for commerce.

Through the Increased Presence and Extended Season in the Arctic project, the Canadian Coast Guard is extending icebreaking season in the Arctic and expanding our presence and services.


Arctic presence
[PDF, 134 KB]


Baseline environmental data on northern British Columbia’s coast

Sound science for emergency response

Environment and Climate Change Canada is collecting data on the marine environment to better understand the current environmental conditions of northern British Columbia. We are using this information to support emergency preparedness and response efforts. Working with First Nations and other partners, we are using this information to protect British Columbia’s north coast.


Coastal Environmental Baseline Program

The Coastal Environmental Baseline Data Program will support evidence-based decisions that will guide economic growth, while preserving our marine ecosystems for future generations. Scientists and community partners at Fisheries and Oceans Canada will collect important information in six regions across Canada. Data collected through the program will support decision-making on issues that could impact marine habitat and vulnerable aquatic species.


Coastal Restoration Fund

Marine and coastal ecosystems around the world face irreversible changes and a decline in biodiversity.

The Coastal Restoration Fund will provide funding to protect and restore Canada’s coastal areas by focusing on important coastal environments and historically affected areas.

The fund will also support coastal restoration projects and initiatives to address threats to marine species.


Coastal Restoration Fund
[PDF, 280 KB]


Cumulative effects of marine shipping

Through the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is working with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities to understand the effects of vessel traffic on coastal environments. The desired outcome of this initiative is to enhance knowledge of the cumulative impacts and stressors of shipping on marine environments.


Enhanced maritime situational awareness

Indigenous and coastal communities have expressed the need for more information on what’s taking place in their local waters. In response, Transport Canada is working with Indigenous communities across the country to develop, test, and refine a new user-friendly maritime information system.


Hazardous and noxious substances

The transportation of hazardous and noxious substances by ships is part of Canada's international economic trade. Examples of hazardous and noxious substances include chemicals shipped as bulk solids or liquids, or dangerous goods being transported in container ships.

To date, the risk of these types of substances being released has been extremely low. However, a hazardous and noxious substance release could potentially have a significant impact on public health, the environment, marine life, and the economy.

The Government of Canada is building on existing pollution response measures to better manage potential impacts from hazardous and noxious substance releases from ships.

The objective of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances initiative is to develop a national program to better prepare for and respond to releases of these substances from ships.

Next Step:

Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard will hold engagement sessions with Indigenous partners, coastal communities and stakeholders in 2018. Stay connected by visiting Let’s Talk – Oceans Protection Plan.


Increasing emergency tow capacity

The Government of Canada will increase its emergency towing capacity by installing towing equipment on all major Canadian Coast Guard vessels, leasing two offshore vessels capable of towing large ships in distress on the West Coast, and engaging partners to complete a needs analysis study on emergency towing requirements on the West Coast.


Lifeboat stations and 24/7 response

The Canadian Coast Guard strategically places search and rescue lifeboat stations across Canada, and staffs them with highly trained professionals who are well-equipped to respond to marine incidents in near-shore areas. The Coast Guard will open new lifeboat stations in strategically chosen locations.


Marine Training Program

In recent years, the marine industry has reported a labour shortage – fewer people are looking for jobs in the marine sector. Yet an increase in marine traffic is expected, creating a greater need for more trained and certified workers. Canada’s existing marine workforce can also do better to reflect the demographics of our overall workforce. The Marine Training Program addresses these issues by providing federal funding to help underrepresented groups gain the skills they need to work in the marine sector.


Marine Training Program
[PDF, 294 KB]


Marine Weather Information Services

Environment and Climate Change Canada has a long and proud history of providing marine forecasting services to mariners who rely on this important information to safely navigate through Canada’s ports and waterways. Under the Oceans Protection Plan Marine Weather Information Services initiative, ECCC will give mariners enhanced weather information, including a short-term forecast of wind speed, wind direction and wave height.


Oil and gas research

The Government of Canada is working with Canadians and Indigenous peoples to keep our coasts clean and protected. We are developing new partnerships and investing in research that is improving our knowledge and generating new technologies to mitigate and prevent marine incidents such as oil spills.


Oil and Gas Research
[PDF, 274 KB]


Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

The Oil Tanker Moratorium Act prohibits oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil products as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations in the moratorium area. The moratorium covers the area from the Canada/United States border in the north, down to the point on British Columbia’s mainland across from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, including Haida Gwaii. It protects the waters of Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.



Pilotage Act Review

Marine pilotage is a service where marine pilots take control of a vessel to navigate it through Canada's ports, straits, lakes, rivers and other waterways.

Several areas across Canada are classified as "compulsory pilotage areas." Once a vessel enters a compulsory pilotage area it must, by law, have a Canadian pilot on board to guide its transit through the area.

The Pilotage Act was enacted in 1972, creating four Pilotage Authorities in Canada whose mandates are to establish, maintain and provide a safe, reliable and efficient pilotage service within their respective pilotage areas.

The Pilotage Act review aims to modernize elements of the Act and will focus on issues such as tariffs, service delivery, governance, new technologies and dispute resolution processes.

Contact us



Pilotage Act
[PDF, 331 KB]


Proactive vessel management

Indigenous communities have raised concerns about marine safety and the impacts of marine shipping on ecologically and culturally sensitive marine areas. In response, the Government of Canada has launched the Proactive Vessel Management Initiative.

What is Proactive Vessel Management?

Proactive Vessel Management refers to the collaboration of multiple parties to:

  • Resolve marine safety issues in local and regional waterways related to commercial shipping
  • Protect the marine environment

Solutions to these issues are developed cooperatively and adopted voluntarily.

We’re working with Indigenous partners, the marine industry and other stakeholders to develop a national framework to guide how Proactive Vessel Management can be implemented across Canada.



Reconciliation Framework Agreement

For generations, life for coastal First Nations and their communities have been tied to Canada’s oceans. In the spirit of reconciliation, the Government of Canada and several British Columbia First Nations have signed a collaborative agreement on the Pacific North Coast to manage, restore and protect the ocean waters there.


Safety equipment and basic marine infrastructure for Northern communities

The delivery of goods by sea is known as marine sealift and re-supply. Many communities in Canada’s Arctic rely on marine sealift and re-supply services. Air services are very expensive, so 95% of goods in the North are shipped by sea.

Shipping in the Arctic is challenging. Northern communities are remote and difficult to access due to ice conditions. Sealift infrastructure is scarce and the sealift and re-supply season is short.

Through the Safety Equipment and Basic Marine Infrastructure for Northern Communities initiative, we are investing $94.3 million to improve Arctic sealift and re-supply for communities in territories that rely on re-supply operations such as Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Some communities in Northern Québec and Labrador may also be considered.

This information is also available in Inuktitut [PDF, 331 KB]



We are enhancing the TERMPOL review process. This will improve how we identify and reduce the risks that come with building and operating marine terminals.

TERMPOL, which is short for Technical Review Process of Marine Terminal Systems and Transhipment Sites, was established in the 1970s. This voluntary review process gives objective guidance to companies planning to build and operate a marine terminal system for the bulk handling of oil, chemicals and liquefied gases.


[PDF, 328 KB]


Whales Detection and Avoidance

Vessel traffic is increasing in Canadian waters frequented by endangered whales, increasing the risk of collision. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting these marine mammals and is working to address the threats they face.


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