With the much discussed proposed rise in marine and tanker
traffic to Northern British Columbia and other potentially
sensitive areas of the country, Canada's oil spill preparedness
and response regime has come under increasing scrutiny. In March of
2013, an independent Tanker Safety Panel was appointed by Transport
Canada to review Canada's current oil spill preparedness and
response regime. The Panel released its report on the first phase
of its review in December of 2013.
The first phase of the Panel's review relates to spills of
persistent oil such as bunker fuel and cargoes of crude oil, fuel
oil and heavy diesel in areas south of 60ş latitude. In the
second phase of its review, the Panel will examine national
requirements for hazardous and noxious substances, including
liquefied natural gas, as well as the state of oil spill
preparedness and response in Canada's Arctic.
The first phase of the Panel's report contains 45
recommendations. These recommendations were derived from the
Panel's key conclusions as to the state of Canada's current
spill response capacity and its views as to what that capacity
should look like in the future. Although the Panel made 45
recommendations, it reached five key conclusions which are briefly
Preparedness should be based on risks to be identified and
mitigated on a regional level. The Panel cautioned against a one
size fits all approach for the whole of Canada;
Canada's current oil spill response capacity of 10,000
tonnes is inadequate. Capacity should be increased to achieve
"worst case scenario capacity", capable of responding to
a major bunker fuel spill or tanker incident. Response times need
to be improved to ensure that the environmental and socio-economic
impact of spills are effectively mitigated in the event of an
Response planning should not be focused solely on mechanical
recovery methods and should include a wider range of spill
countermeasures. Such measures could include "alternative
response techniques", such as the use of dispersants and
"in situ burning", which are prohibited or made difficult
to implement under current legislation. The Panel also found that
portions of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 discouraged
action by certain potential responders. It recommended amendments
to the Act to provide immunity to potential responders in
A larger and limitless Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund should be
created to pay claims arising from oil spills. The fund should be
entirely paid for by the oil cargo industry. It should be
backstopped by the Federal Government, but only in the event of a
temporary shortfall before industry can replenish the fund.
A high-level "interdepartmental committee" should be
created to coordinate spill response among the various responsible
government entities. This committee was found necessary to reduce
problematic confusion among the various government agencies and
departments who respond to a spill.
While the conclusions and recommendations of the Panel have yet
to be formally adopted by industry or government, the Panel's
views provide an indication as to the direction Canada's spill
response and preparedness regime may be heading. Industry
stakeholders can expect to fund a growing and increasingly capable
spill response capacity which will likely involve adapted and
expanded versions of current response systems and
Stakeholders would be well-advised to read the report in full here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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