On May 12, the Government of Canada introduced C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in Parliament, seeking to formalize an oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s north coast.
The proposed Act would prohibit oil tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of crude or persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia.
The proposed moratorium area extends from the Canada/U.S. border in the north down to the point on British Columbia’s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and also includes Haida Gwaii. Once the legislation is passed, it will provide a high level of protection for the Canadian coastline around Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.
The proposed moratorium will complement the existing voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, which has been in place since 1985.
The Act will apply to the shipment of crude oils as defined by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. It will also apply to related oil products that are heavier and when spilled, break up and dissipate slowly.
The legislation proposes strong penalty provisions for contravention that could reach up to $5 million. The legislation also proposes flexibility for amendments. Further refined petroleum products can be removed from the list on the basis of science and environmental safety, but products may also be added on this basis.
The Act will deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to formalize a crude oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia’s north coast and is another action that the Government of Canada is taking as part of the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. The largest investment ever made in our oceans and waterways, the Oceans Protection Plan involves new measures to improve marine safety and responsible shipping; protect Canada’s marine environment; and create new partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities.
The moratorium sends a dangerous economic signal while not addressing risk appropriately, says Canada's Chamber of Shipping. The Chamber issued a statement saying that its members strongly advocate for the vigorous protection of the nation's pristine coastlines, and members have been proud to lend our voice to the chorus of support for initiatives like the government's Oceans Protection Plan.
“However, we do not support the moratorium announced today. Firstly, it contradicts a crucial pillar of the federal government's stated approach to environmental protection: evidence-based decision making. It also flies in the face of the Oceans Protection Plan, which commits to focusing resources on determining and addressing real safety and environmental risks identified through scientific research.
“Secondly, the moratorium sends a very harmful signal to the international investment community. Canada is now the first and only country in the world to legislatively ban the trade of multiple commodities. The establishment of this moratorium may have unintended consequences from coast to coast and set a precedent that could ultimately impact Canadian jobs and the economy,” said the Chamber in a statement.
"At a time when the U.S. is focused on its global competitiveness, this unnecessarily extreme approach tells our current and potential trading partners that Canada is closed for business," says Robert Lewis-Manning, President of the Chamber of Shipping.
Canada remains a strong trading nation, with one in five Canadian jobs and more than 60 percent of its gross domestic product directly linked to exports. “In order to preserve our competitiveness worldwide, it is critical that the Canadian government supports our national supply chain.”