Vessels of concern, including wrecked, abandoned, hazardous, or worn-down (dilapidated) boats, can create issues to local public health and safety, the environment, and the economy. Not only are they unsightly objects, but they can also contaminate our waters, impact local tourism and shipping routes, and affect the marine ecosystem.
In 2019, the Government of Canada took a significant step to address vessels of concern in impacted communities by introducing the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act (the Act). A key measure under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Act reduces the negative impacts of vessels of concern on Canada’s coastal and shoreline communities by increasing owner accountability for their vessels, and enabling the Government of Canada to take proactive actions in cases where a dilapidated vessel has been identified.
On this page
- What is The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act
- Responsible vessel management
- Reporting an abandoned vessel
- Vessel of Concern Bulletin Board
- Related links
What is the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act?
Video transcript - Abandoned boats don’t belong in our waters
What a beautiful sight! The blue water, the light breeze, the…wait…zoom in a little…is that an abandoned boat?!
These rotting, sinking boats shouldn’t be here—they pose a hazard to public health, the environment, and the local economy!
And unfortunately, there are hundreds of them around Canada.
Luckily, Canada’s Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act—or WAHVA for short—is here to help.
A key measure under the Oceans Protection Plan, WAHVA supports the removal of abandoned boats from our coastlines.
For example, it makes it illegal to abandon a boat. That means boat owners are liable for disposing their vessels responsibly.
If an owner is unresponsive, Transport Canada will work with its local partners to remove the boat and recoup costs from the owner.
Thanks to WAHVA, hundreds of boats have already been removed from our waters, helping to keep our waters safer, cleaner, and healthier than ever. And under the Oceans Protection Plan, more and more abandoned boats will continue to be removed.
On-screen text: To learn more about WAHVA, or to report an abandoned boat that you’ve spotted, visit our website.
A message from the Government of Canada.
As a key initiative under the Oceans Protection Plan, the implementation of the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act is central to the Government of Canada’s goal of addressing problem vessels and protecting Canada’s waterways and marine ecosystem. Vessels of concern can present environmental, economic, social, and safety issues, and are a growing issue for local communities.
As its central purpose, the Act aims to address irresponsible vessel management, which includes provisions that prohibit vessel abandonment and enhance federal powers to take proactive actions to address vessels of concern before they become a risk. The Act applies to Canadian and foreign registered vessels (from small pleasure crafts to commercial vessels) that are in Canadian waters.
The Act brings into Canadian law the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, making vessel owners liable for the cost of removing a vessel that represents an environmental hazard or that adversely impacts the safety of navigation.
Under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canadian Coast Guard), work together to address vessels of concern and their impacts. Authorities under the Act are shared between the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, allowing them to effectively carry out their duties by ensuring that all parts of the Act are followed. Authorities that fall under each department are listed below.
Transport Canada is responsible for administering the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act by monitoring compliance in all Canadian waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Administered by the Navigation Protection Program (NPP), the Act allows Transport Canada to:
- Protect the public right to use all navigable waters in Canada, and
- Protect Canada’s navigable waters including coastal and shoreline communities from wrecked, abandoned, or worn-down (dilapidated) vessels.
Under the Act, the Minister of Transport has the authority to:
- Authorize the transfer of possession of any abandoned vessel to a third-party.
- Designate a person to be Receiver of Wreck, a custodian when a wreck owner is unknown or cannot be located.
- Order owners of vessels to address their worn-down (dilapidated) vessel if it has remained in the same location for 60 consecutive days without the consent of a person in charge of that location.
- Enforce prohibition of vessel abandonment.
- Take action to remove a vessel of concern, if the owner is unknown, or is unable or unwilling to respond.
- Hold the owners of vessels liable for the costs of moving or removing their vessel that is abandoned or worn-down.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canadian Coast Guard)
- Address all vessels and wrecks, including those that pose or may pose a hazard in all Canadian waters and in the exclusive economic zone of Canada (i.e., between 12 and 200 nautical miles from Canada’s coastline).
- Coordinate and conduct hazard assessments on vessels and wrecks wherever located, including conducting enforcement actions.
- Enforce the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 in Canadian waters and the exclusive economic zone of Canada. Specifically, ensuring that wrecks are properly reported, located, marked, and removed by the owner, as required in Part 1, and to take necessary measures if the owner is unknown, unable, or unwilling to act.
- Take appropriate actions on dilapidated vessels that are left on property under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans.
Responsible vessel management
When boating in Canada's waterways or along its coastlines, you may see wrecks or abandoned vessels. These can pose several problems, including preventing other vessels from enjoying the use and navigation of a waterway, they can pose a risk to public health and infrastructure, and they represent a hazard to the environment. Owning a vessel comes with many responsibilities, one of which includes having a plan to responsibly dispose of it when damaged or when it reaches the end of its useful lifecycle. It is against the law to abandon your unwanted vessel or neglect it so that it becomes a wreck.
To help protect the environment, local economies, and public health and safety, it is important that every vessel owner knows how to be a responsible boat owner.
Impacts of wrecks and abandoned or hazardous vessels
(PDF, 182 KB)
Under the sections of the Act administered by Transport Canada, it is illegal to:
- Abandon your vessel.
- Cause your vessel to become a wreck by failing to maintain it.
- Purposely sink, strand, or ground your vessel on purpose.
- Leave your vessel in poor condition, in the same area, for more than 60 consecutive days within a radius of 3 nautical miles without the authorization of the location owner.
- Leave your vessel adrift for more than 48 hours without taking measures to secure it.
- Take possession of a wreck before reporting it to the Receiver of Wreck, unless:
- The wreck is in danger, and you need to take possession to secure or otherwise protect it; or
- The Receiver of Wreck authorizes you to take possession.
- Entering Canada with a wreck found outside of Canadian waters without reporting it to the Receiver of Wreck as early as possible.
Penalties for non-compliance
Failure to comply with provisions of the Act can result in enforcement actions being taken, which can include the issuance of administrative monetary penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for corporations. Convictions on more serious offences could result in a maximum fine of $1 million for individuals and $6 million for corporations.
- For minor violations, the maximum penalty is $5,000 for individuals.
- For serious violations, the maximum penalty is $50,000 for individuals.
The Act requires the Minister of Transport to maintain and disclose a public record of all penalties for non-compliance issued under the Act.
Reporting wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels (problem vessels)
If you think you’ve found an abandoned boat or wreck, report it.
Vessel of Concern Bulletin Board
Under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, Transport Canada may sell, destroy or otherwise dispose of a vessel, a wreck or its content.
Transport Canada maintains a Bulletin Board which has a list of problem vessels for which the Navigation Protection Program (NPP) wants to take an action or is looking for the owner. You can consult the list of vessels and their reason for publication at the links below. Please contact your regional NPP office should you be the owner of one of these vessels, or should you have any additional information.
- Protecting our coasts: Oceans Protection Plan
- Abandoned Boats Program (ABP)
- Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program
- Application for wreck removal insurance certificate
- Canadian Coast Guard Hazardous vessels response program
- External Submission Site for the Navigation Protection Program
- Common Project Search