Lines of Inquiry

Lines of Inquiry – Phase I: Oil Spills South of 60° N

The following questions were designed to help stakeholders to focus their input on key areas of interest for the first phase of the Panel’s work, focusing on the Ship-source Spill Preparedness and Response Regime south of 60°N latitude:

  • The general structure and functioning of the Regime,
  • The preparedness elements of the Regime,
  • The response elements of the Regime, and
  • Linkages between the Regime and liability and compensation provisions in the Marine Liability Act.


  • Does the current oil spill preparedness and response regime meet today’s needs? What about future needs? What elements of the current regime could be improved to make it world class? 
  • Does Canada’s current regime, which is based upon a public-private response model in which industry-funded Response Organizations take the lead in preparing for and responding to an oil spill, continue to make sense for Canada?  What changes, if any, would improve the model to world class status?
  • In terms of oil spill preparedness and response, are the current roles and responsibilities for government and industry clear? Are they appropriate?  What changes would you suggest to improve roles and responsibilities under the current regime? 
  1. What future trends or emerging developments (for example, new petroleum products, new response techniques or increased vessel traffic) should be taken into account to enhance the current regime to world class status? 
  2. There are currently six Regional Advisory Councils (RAC) and one National Advisory Council (NAC) which provide advice and feedback to the Government of Canada on the current regime.  What could be done to improve this feedback mechanism?  Are the roles and responsibilities of the RAC and the NAC clear? Is this structure a best practice?
  3. Canada’s current regime is standardized across the country, with all ports, ship owners, oil handling facilities and Response Organizations operating under the same legislation, regulations and guidelines. Is this an appropriate model for Canada? What improvements could be made to the current model?
  4. Does the current preparedness and response regime clearly define how it interacts and links with Canada’s liability and compensation regime? What changes, if any, would improve the current framework to world-class status?
  5. Canada currently has two regimes for marine oil pollution: one for ship-source oil pollution and one for oil pollution from oil exploration activities and offshore platforms.  What are the benefits to having two separate regimes?  What are the risks to having two separate regimes?


  1. Are the preparedness requirements for ports, ship owners, oil handling facilities and Response Organizations adequate?  What changes, if any, would improve the system to make it world-class?
  2. Does research and development play a strong enough role in the current regime?  Who should be responsible for funding and conducting research and development related to the oil spills? 
  3. Is there a need for a greater degree of coordination between government departments, between different levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal and international) and between government and the industry in respect to training, exercises and research and development?  What could be done to make the coordination of these activities more effective? What steps should be taken?
  4. How should risk information related to the potential for an oil spill and its possible impacts be used to inform the elements of the regime?  What other information should be taken into consideration when government and industry formulate their preparedness and response plans?
  5. What other preparedness requirements should be incorporated into the regime?


  1. What could be done to make the response to oil spills more effective and efficient?
  2. Is there adequate oversight of the Response Organizations under the current regulatory framework?  Are the current Response Organizations Standards adequate?  What, if any, changes should be made?  Is the certification process for Response Organizations adequate and is there sufficient expertise present during this process? 
  3. Is the current regulated response capacity of 10,000 tonnes sufficient or should it be increased? What could be done to improve on this current model for regulated response capacity?
  4. What could be done to increase the capacity to respond to spills of unconventional oil products (e.g. diluted bitumen)?
  5. What role should the Canadian Coast Guard take during the response to an oil spill? 
  6. What improvements could be made to better integrate government and non-government stakeholders into the overall management of a response?
  7. Is there a role for other parties to play in the response to an oil spill, particularly in more remote areas of the country? What factors would need to be considered if there is an increased role for them?
  8. The current response regime is based around mechanical recovery.  Are there alternate response techniques that should be considered in addition to mechanical recovery for spill response?  What are the pros and cons of these alternative mechanisms?  How could these additional methods be included into the current regime?

Liability, Compensation and Funding

  1. How should a world-class oil spill preparedness and response regime be funded?
  2. Is the current fee structure fair, reasonable and transparent, and does it meet the current regime’s requirements? 
  3. Canada’s liability and compensation regime provides coverage for the costs associated with responding to an oil spill from a ship. Are there specific costs where the coverage for responding to an oil spill is potentially not adequate? Are there current limitations on the coverage that may impact a response to a spill?
  4. There exist several models for funding the preparedness costs to an oil spill as well as providing access to emergency funds during an ongoing response. Would the dedication of a set amount of emergency funds similar to what is in place in the United States be an improvement to the capability to effectively manage a large spill? What improvements should be made?
  5. Could the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund be used more effectively for the purposes of preparedness and response?