Hover over a red button on the picture to learn more about how the Government of Canada leads the clean-up from ship-source oil spills.
- Vessels in Canadian waters must report oil spills immediately to the Canadian Coast Guard and the polluter must pay for the oil spill clean-up. There may also be other charges under Canadian laws.
Spill Response Procedures
Video: Marine 101: What happens when a ship enters Canadian waters?
- The Canadian Coast Guard is the lead for marine oil spill response and works with partners to ensure an appropriate response to incidents by using towing vessels to keep the vessel away from shore and equipment to contain and clean up spills.
Video: We are the Canadian Coast Guard
- National Aerial Surveillance Program Airplanes and Experts detect oil spills and provide “eyes in the sky” during the clean-up. They also map clean-up progress.
National Aerial Surveillance Program
Video: National Aerial Surveillance Program – Protecting Our Waters
- The Incident Command System is what the Canadian Coast Guard use to bring all responders, communities, and governments together to co-ordinate activities during a response to an oil spill incident. Indigenous and coastal communities participate in this response effort and assist in identifying local environmental, cultural, and economic priorities.
Incident Command System
- The Response Organizations are four industry-funded and Transport Canada-certified organizations that provide spill clean-up services to the shipping industry. They are:
Atlantic Emergency Response Team (ALERT) Inc.
Eastern Canada Response Corporation Ltd. (ECRC)
Point Tupper Marine Services Co. (PTMSC)
Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC)
Video: Responding efficiently to oil spills
- Maps and Radar help response partners identify high-risk areas and marine traffic, and help manage response efforts. Some examples of maps and radar include high-resolution oceanographic data and electronic nautical charts.
Canadian Hydrographic Service
Coastal Environmental Baseline Program
Baseline environmental data on northern British Columbia's coast
- Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres monitor for incidents 24/7 on all coasts using radar and radio communications. The MCTS Centres assist the Incident Commander in responding to the spill. Coast Guard Stations, equipped with tools, boats, and equipment are located close to the coastlines for immediate access.
Expanding capacity in environmental response and search and rescue
VIDEO: Marine Communications and Traffic Services centres
- Transport Canada Marine Safety Inspectors inspect the vessel and take enforcement action as necessary, which can include detaining the vessel. These inspectors make sure the vessel operates under Canadian and International rules and also evaluate the vessel owner’s response plans and salvage operations.
Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations
Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations
Roles and Responsibilities
- Federal Environmental Emergency Officers and Wildlife Biologists give scientific advice to response partners on the clean-up, the path of the oil and weather conditions. The advice given includes relevant information about marine and coastal wildlife in the area.
Environmental Emergencies Program
- Shoreline Clean-up is done by response partners to remove debris, deflect the spill using booms or to trap the spill at the shoreline.
Shoreline clean-up assessment technique (SCAT) manual
- Compensation for Clean-up reimburses communities and response partners as necessary/appropriate.
Compensating for Response Costs
Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund
- Here are some examples of tools used for clean-up of oil on the water by response partners:
Booms limit the spread of the oil on the water, deflect it away from sensitive areas and contain it for recovery.
Mechanical Skimmers recover the oil from the water’s surface and pump it into storage vessels such as barges.
Sorbents are materials that recover oils through absorption and then are removed from the water.
Underwater tools including sonar, visualization systems and divers are used to determine underwater impacts. Vacuuming, sorbents and dredging can then be used by response partners.
Understanding Spills of Diluted Bitumen into Aqueous Environments
Alternative Response Measures
Video: Protecting our Oceans
Vessels in Canadian waters must report oil spills immediately to the Canadian Coast Guard and polluters are responsible for and must pay for the spill clean-up. Each oil spill is unique and therefore the clean-up method varies depending on many factors such as weather, location, and spill size.
When an oil spill is reported, the Canadian Coast Guard leads the response as the Federal Incident Commander. They assess the initial situation and notify response partners. Those response partners include Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, certified oil spill response organizations, the provincial or territorial government, and Indigenous and coastal communities.
After the oil is cleaned up, the Government of Canada conducts enforcement investigations into the causes of the spill and works with the polluter and response partners to recover the costs of the clean-up.
The national $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan (OPP) 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 our coasts and waterways the way we do now. The plan is improving marine safety and responsible shipping, protecting Canada’s marine environment, and offering new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities.