Canada changing Oceans Protection Plan to ensure ship owners pay for hazardous spills along coasts

Oil tanker

Shipping, oil, gas, chemical, petrochemical industries support global liability and compensation regime

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is ensuring ongoing protection of our coasts as part of the building of a modern, competitive and sustainable economy, according to a government o press release.

Canada depends on the marine sector to bring commodities to and from overseas markets in a way that protects our coastlines from the risk of a serious spill that could cause severe damage.

On April 23, the Government announced its ratification of the 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Substances Protocol, a global regime that ensures compensation for those affected by a hazardous and noxious substances spill.

Though these types of spills are rare, they can have severe consequences on coastal communities, tourism activities, fishing industries, and can incur significant clean-up costs.

“The ratification of the 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Protocol is an important step towards the protection of our oceans and the economic prosperity of our coastal communities. The Government of Canada is committed to the continued building of a world-leading marine safety system that improves response to marine pollution incidents,” said Marc Garneau, minister of Transport Canada.

The Government says it recognized the marine risk associated with the transportation of hazardous and dangerous goods along our coasts.

By ratifying the Protocol, Canada agrees to apply the “polluter pay principle” – making ship owners liable for hazardous and noxious substances spills. Once the Protocol comes into force, a new global compensation fund to compensate affected individuals and communities will be established through contributions from industry.

The move from the Federal Government comes as it pushes to build the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the B.C. government is fighting, saying its too risky and will increase the risk of a bitumen spill along its coast due to increased tanker traffic. B.C. is currently in “policy consultations” for the risks pipeline, tanker heavy oil spills.

The 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Substances Protocol has to be ratified or acceded to by at least 12 countries. Canada ratified the Protocol on Monday, April 23, and joins Norway and Turkey as the first three countries to lead the way to the entry into force of the new regime.

According to the Government of Canada, it led extensive consultations with Canadians during the development of the 2010 Hazardous and Noxious Substances Protocol.

It also says that the shipping, oil, gas, chemical, and petrochemical industries consistently expressed support for the development of a global liability and compensation regime.

The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Government of Canada says it’s creating a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coasts and waterways for generations to come.

This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.

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