Canada's Proposed Tanker Ban Ready for Review

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By The Maritime Executive 10-18-2017 06:48:28

The Canadian Parliament is giving consideration to legislation that would have the effect of establishing a moratorium on the shipment of crude oil in the waters of Northern British Columbia (Bill C-48: An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia’s north coast). 

The legislation, tabled in the Canadian parliament in May, will be reviewed by a parliamentary committee, beginning on October 19. 

Ahead of the review, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has voiced deep concern about this proposed legislation which it says will interfere with international maritime trade. “Such a draconian step could lead to serious concerns being raised by Canada’s international trading partners,” said ICS Director of Policy and External Relations, Simon Bennett.  

ICS asserts that the proposals have not been developed through an evidence-based process and believes that it would establish an unwelcome precedent that might be emulated elsewhere, including by individual U.S. States, with the potential to impact greatly on the efficiency of world trade, as well as that of Canada.

ICS says that the environmental record of the shipping industry, especially the tanker sector, is impressive. On average, worldwide, there are currently fewer than two significant oil spills (over 700 tons) per year, compared to 25 such incidents per year 30 years ago, despite a doubling of the amount of oil transported by sea.

“We would instead encourage Canada to continue its strong history of environmental protection and support for responsible global trade through the implementation of practical measures consistent with international best practice. This includes respecting the IMO's role in developing safe and sustainable shipping regulations and recommendations that might address any concerns that Canada may have,” said Bennett.

ICS says that the global shipping industry fully recognizes the importance of robust environmental protection measures, and is committed to the goal of zero pollution, consistent with the comprehensive global regulatory framework adopted by the IMO, in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which Canada is a State Party.

Message of Support

Earlier this month, a range of groups including northerners, Indigenous organizations, local governments, labor unions and environmental groups, sent a strong message of support for Bill which would prohibit any vessel carrying more than 12,500 tons of crude or persistent oil from using any port or marine installation on British Columbia’s north coast in Hecate Strait, Dixon Entrance and Queen Charlotte Sound. The coalition of groups issued an open letter urging Parliamentarians to promptly pass the Act into law.

Earlier this year, the Coastal First Nations (CFN) commended Canada’s proposed moratorium legislation. Patrick Kelly, the CFN board chair, said: “We fought hard against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project. This law puts an end to any future oil pipeline and tanker project in our territories. Our communities have fought decades to protect our territories and waters from oil spills,” Kelly said.  “Our coast is no place for oil pipelines and tankers. They are a threat to our culture, environment and economy.”

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.