Oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s north coast

On June 21, 2019, the Watch the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act video (Bill C-48) received Royal Assent. The moratorium supports the government’s Oceans Protection Plan, a national strategy to protect Canada’s coasts while growing the economy.

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The moratorium prohibits oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tons 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. It also includes Haida Gwaii. It protects the waters of Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. This measure complements the existing voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, which has been in place since 1985.

Watch the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act video.

Shipments of less than 12,500 metric tonnes will continue to be allowed to ensure north coast communities and industries can receive critical shipments of heating oils and other petroleum products.

Read the community and industry resupply study for information on the 12,500 metric tonnes threshold.

Oil products covered by the moratorium

The moratorium applies to the shipment of:

A list of prohibited persistent oil products is in a schedule to the Act.

Related oil products the moratorium applies to include:

  • partially upgraded bitumen
  • synthetic crude oil
  • petroleum pitch
  • slack wax
  • Bunker C fuel oil

Related oil products the moratorium does not apply to include:

  • liquefied natural gas
  • gasoline
  • naphtha
  • jet fuel
  • propane

Amending the schedule of persistent oil products

The Governor in Council will have authority under the Act to amend the Schedule of persistent oils through regulation. This would assess:

  • the latest science and evidence of how oil products act when spilled
  • innovations and technological developments in the transportation of oil
  • the state of clean up technology

Environmental safety is the main consideration for amending the list of products covered by the moratorium.

Five-Year Review

The Act requires a mandatory five-year review of the legislation that will enable the appropriate Committee of Parliament to study the full application of the Act. This review will allow for new information, including evidence on technological and scientific developments to be taken into consideration. It will also require a review of the impacts of the Act on the environment, on social and economic conditions and on the Indigenous peoples of Canada. It will provide the opportunity for all interested Indigenous communities, provinces and other stakeholders to express their views after a reasonable period of time with the moratorium in effect.

Non-compliance and enforcement

To demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment to this moratorium, the Act includes an enforcement regime.

Penalties would match the scale of a violation and could reach up to $5 million.