Coastal and waterway communities across Canada are affected by wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels. These problem vessels can pose hazards to the environment, public health and safety, and local industries such as fishing and tourism. Most vessel owners are responsible and maintain and dispose of their vessels properly. However, the small percentage who are not responsible can create significant impacts on our coastal communities, with the burden for costly clean-up often falling on Canadian taxpayers.
That is why the Government of Canada, through its Oceans Protection Plan, is taking action to deter irresponsible vessel owner behaviour. The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, are pleased to mark the coming-into-force of the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.
The Act prohibits vessel abandonment and brings into Canadian law the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007. It increases owner responsibility and liability for their vessels, addresses irresponsible vessel management, and enables the Government of Canada to proactively intervene to address problem vessels that pose hazards. Not complying with the Act can result in an administrative monetary penalty of up to $50,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for companies or corporations. Convictions of more serious offences could result in a maximum fine of $1 million for individuals and up to $6 million for companies or corporations.
The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. This national plan is creating a world-leading marine safety system that provides economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines and clean water for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.
“This significant legislation is making vessel owners responsible under the law for the safe disposal of their vessels. Most owners are responsible, but for those few who are not, we now have the ability to hold them to account. Canada’s coastal waters are home to many communities including indigenous communities who have lived by the water for countless generations. We are taking concrete actions to protect and restore these sensitive ecosystems.”
The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport
“Wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels can pose risks to the environment, clutter our shorelines, affect sensitive marine habitats and species, and disrupt community activities and local economies. Our new strengthened law ensures these problems are addressed quickly, before they become more serious. With the Oceans Protection Plan, we are taking action so that our coasts and oceans will be safe, clean and healthy for future generations.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
In addition to the new legislation, as part of the National Strategy to Address Canada’s Wrecked and Abandoned Vessels, the Government of Canada launched two short-term funding programs in 2017 to support eligible recipients in removing and disposing of high-priority vessels: Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program. Transport Canada’s program also supports education and awareness activities and research on vessel recycling and design.
Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program is investing $6.85 million for abandoned boat assessment, removal and disposal, and for research and education initiatives. Since May 31, 2017, the program has launched four calls for proposals for projects to be funded through grants and contributions, the most recent of which remains open until March 31, 2020. To date, funding has been approved to assess 102 boats for a total of $342,560, and to remove 78 boats for a total of $1,796,038.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program is providing up to $1.325 million over five years to Harbour Authorities and other eligible recipients to remove and dispose of abandoned and wrecked vessels located in federal small craft harbours. To date, 23 vessels have been removed and disposed of across the country, and funding has been awarded to gain legal possession which could lead to the removal of an additional eight vessels, under the program.
Other measures under development within the National Strategy include improving vessel owner identification, creating a national inventory of problem vessels and developing a risk assessment methodology to prioritize response, and establishing a polluter pays approach for vessel clean-up through creation of an owner-financed long-term fund.
Since the Oceans Protection Plan started in November 2016, over 50 initiatives have been announced in the areas of marine safety, research and ecosystem protection that span coast-to-coast-to-coast.