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New tools proposed for oil tanker safety in Canadian waters


The Canadian government is proposing a series of new tools to improve oil tanker safety.

By utilizing new technology, response plans, enhanced liability and exemptions for certain clean-up dispersants, Transport Canada is looking to quickly move its plans through Parliament.

Speaking in Saint John, New Brunswick, federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt said many of the ideas being introduced are based on the recommendations of an independent Tanker Safety Expert Panel formed in 2013.

“Our government is committed to further strengthening an already robust oil tanker safety system with an excellent record, and has acted upon the independent advice of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel to improve it,” Raitt said in her address on May 13, 2014.

Canada is proposing to develop and implement tailored response plans in four areas that have the highest level of oil tanker traffic: the southern portion of British Columbia; Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia; and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. 

In terms of high-tech, Canada wants to move towards e-navigation. Raitt said it’s also important to invest in state-of-the-art technology such as smart buoys and advanced navigational products to provide vessel operators with real-time information needed to navigate safely and prevent oil spills.

Raitt also noted that the federal government wants to expand the range of tools available for oil spill cleanups. This can be done, she said, by lifting legal barriers on the use of dispersants and other cleanup alternatives when the use of such tools will be of net environmental benefit.

Raitt said the government wants to conduct additional research into the pre-treatment of heavy oil products at the source, and the behaviour of different formulations of heavy oil products when spilled in marine environments.

“We are encouraged by this announcement today, as the federal government’s plan for a World Class Tanker Safety system will benefit from robust research from a variety of disciplines,” said Dr. Douglas Wallace, Scientific Director of the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network.

The Government of Canada is also proposing to enhance the spill liability and compensation regime by introducing legislative and regulatory amendments to enhance Canada’s domestic Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF).

  •  Allow the full balance of the SOPF, currently about $400 million, to be available in the event of an oil spill.
  •  In the event that all available sources of funds have been exhausted by spill-related claims, the Government of Canada will ensure compensation is provided to eligible claimants, and then recover those payments from the marine oil transport industry through a levy.
  •  Align the SOPF with international funds by covering pure economic losses suffered by people who have had a loss of earnings but whose property has not been contaminated by an oil spill.

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