Canada introduces new tanker-safety measures
Expanding e-navigation and related technologies, providing more oil-spill cleanup tools, and helping Aboriginal communities purchase safety equipment are just some of the new measures announced by Lisa Raitt, Canada’s transport minister, to strengthen Canada’s tanker safety system.
Raitt announced the new proposals, which were offered up by the Tanker Safety Expert Panel, one year after the Canadian government first issued proposals to beef up its tanker security. In 2013, officials stared working toward increasing inspections of foreign tankers at Canadian ports, adding more aerial patrols near Canadian coasts, and conducting new oil research.
“These measures demonstrated our government's commitment to build a world-class tanker safety system that would protect both coastal communities and our environment,” she said during a speech at the Port of Sain John in New Brunswick, Canada. “One year later, I am here to tell you we are achieving this goal and keeping our commitment to Canadians.”
By providing new oil clean-up tools, the government means to lift legal barriers on certain oil dispersants; heavy oil research will include “the behavior of different formulations of heavy oil products when spilled in marine environments, and a variety of potential alternative response measures.” Raitt also said legislation is on tap to remove the liability limits on polluters and allow the government to step in to compensate victims when a polluter’s funds are exhausted.
The new measures introduced also include what she called the most significant recommendation. The government will work toward placing “area response and planning resources” in four high tanker-traffic areas — Southern British Columbia, Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Port Hawkesbury.
“There is widespread agreement that we need to tailor response plans and cleanup resources for spills based on the geography of a region, its tanker traffic, and its environmental conditions,” she said. “Enhancing our readiness to respond to spills in these four initial areas represents a first step to establishing a stronger oil spill preparedness and response regime along all of our coasts.”
Gordon Houston, who served as the chair of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel, said the government took the panel’s work seriously. In a statement, he pointed out that the government “has done a very good job in further strengthening an already strong tanker safety system in each of the three areas of spill prevention, preparedness and response, and liability and compensation. "
The chief executive officers of major Canadian ports, shipper groups and safety agencies said they welcomed the new developments.
"Canada has provided internationally recognized leadership over the last decades in pollution prevention and response, and all of the work leading to this announcement has created a truly world-class regime that should be a source of pride for all contributors,” Jim Quinn, Port Saint John’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Our future will see even greater quantities of petroleum products moved through our waters, and this strengthened system will provide critical direction for the many organizations who currently work together in ensuring a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible operation."
Kevin Gardner, president and general manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, said his organization shares the government’s “vision of a world-class spill response regime.”
He continued, “We support the movement towards a regime where capacity fits the assessed risks of each geographic region. We look forward to working with government and industry to continue to enhance the existing regime.”