Transport Canada's role in marine accidents

In the event of a marine accident, Transport Canada may send inspectors to the accident site to verify compliance with regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. An investigation is undertaken if it is believed that any safety regulations were violated and therefore contributed to or caused the accident.

The department may also conduct an investigation (under the Canada Labour Code, Part II) to determine if the working conditions were a factor in the accident.

Transport Canada inspectors are also responsible for investigating ship-source marine pollution incidents, determining the cause of the pollution, and recommending prosecution if appropriate.

In the case of major accidents, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities may appoint a Minister's Observer to attend the investigation. Through the Minister's Observer program and through its own investigations, Transport Canada may become aware of circumstances which require immediate attention, in which case the department takes action as necessary.

As part of its mandate to advance transportation safety, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) may choose to investigate the accident and release a report. Transport Canada co-operates with the TSB in its investigations by providing information and advice. When the TSB report is released, Transport Canada takes appropriate action based on the report's findings and recommendations.

Other major players

Transportation Safety Board

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency created to advance transportation safety through the investigation of occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation.

These investigations help the TSB to determine why an accident happened, and how safety can be improved to help prevent similar accidents.

The TSB also maintains an accident reporting system for all modes of transportation. This information is used by the Board, and by Transport Canada, to analyze and improve the safety of Canada's transportation system.


If a transportation accident involves fatalities, a representative of the provincial or territorial coroner or a medical examiner is sent to the site. The coroner's responsibilities include conducting autopsies where necessary and determining the cause of death. The coroner may decide to hold a coroner's inquest into the circumstances surrounding the deaths. This inquest is normally held two to six months after the accident.


The police, whether local, provincial or RCMP, are normally among the first officials to arrive at the site. Their initial responsibilities are to ensure the safety of persons and property at the site. They also secure the site, document evidence, assist the coroner in his/her duties, and may act as the coroner's agent, especially in remote locations.


On occasion, there may be other organizations present at accident sites. For example, officials from Environment Canada and their provincial counterparts may be on hand to help determine the presence of or to contain any environmental damage.