Backgrounder Article from  Transport Canada

Crude oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast

The Government of Canada will introduce legislation by spring 2017 to formalize a moratorium for crude oil tankers on British Columbia’s (B.C.) north coast. This will provide extra protection for B.C.’s pristine northern coastline, including the Great Bear Rainforest, from potential oil spills.

The moratorium will cover the Great Bear Rainforest/Great Bear Sea area: an area from the Alaska/B.C. border down to the point on B.C.’s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and this includes Haida Gwaii. The new legislation will prohibit oil tankers carrying crude oil or persistent oil products as cargo from entering or leaving ports and marine installations in this area.

This measure will complement the existing voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, which has been in place since 1985.

Products covered

The moratorium will apply to the shipment of crude oils as defined by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and this will be set in the legislation. It will also apply to related oil products that are heavier and, when spilled, break up and dissipate slowly. As a result they remain longer in the environment compared to lighter products that tend to dissipate more rapidly. A complete list of these persistent products included in the moratorium will be outlined in a schedule to the legislation. The list of scheduled products could be amended in the future through the regulatory process based on the evolution of science and technology.

Below are examples of related oil products included and not included in the moratorium.

Examples of related oil products included in the moratorium

Examples of related oil products not included in the moratorium

  • Partially upgraded bitumen
  • Synthetic crude oil
  • Pitch
  • Slack wax
  • Bunker C fuel oil
  • Liquefied natural gas
  • Gasoline
  • Naphtha
  • Jet fuel
  • Propane

Impact on Northern B.C. communities

Northern B.C. communities rely on marine transportation for resupply – for the provision of goods, products and essential fuels (heating oils and other critical petroleum products) that ensure the ongoing well-being of their residents. Vessels carrying less than 12,500 tonnes of crude oil or persistent oil products as cargo will be exempted from the moratorium to allow local communities and industries to continue to receive these critical goods.

Enforcement and non-compliance

To reinforce the seriousness of the Government of Canada’s commitment to the moratorium, the legislation would include an enforcement regime and penalty provisions. Penalties will be commensurate with the scale of violation and could reach up to $5 million.

Amendments to the product list could be considered following a regulatory review that would assess the latest developments in science and evidence around the fate and behaviour of the petroleum product when spilled, and the state of clean up technology and preparedness to respond to spills. Environmental safety will be the main consideration for any additions or deletions to the product list through the regulatory process.

Oceans Protection Plan

The moratorium is another measure to protect Canada’s water and pristine coastline, and is complementary to the Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. While this is a national plan, it will include important new measures to protect British Columbia’s coast, such as the development of a new regional oil spill response plan, partnerships with Indigenous communities in marine response, and the addition of four new lifeboat stations.

In addition, the Government of Canada welcomes new measures by the Pacific Pilotage Authority to further strengthen the pilotage regime; adding additional route restrictions to vessels transporting petroleum products within the pilotage area; and launching a pilotage risk assessment to further examine pilotage requirements along the B.C. coast. The Government will carry out an inspection campaign on compliance of the tug and barge industry in both the Pacific and Atlantic regions with existing regulations and review whether additional measures may be required to enhance safe operations.

The Government of Canada will continue to engage with stakeholders on the moratorium and related initiatives to create a world-leading marine safety system as it moves forward with legislation to enact this moratorium.

Map of the proposed moratorium area: Great Bear Rainforest/Great Bear Sea (from the Alaska/B.C. border down to the point on B.C.’s mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, including Haida Gwaii).

November 2016


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Hon. Marc Garneau Transport Canada Nature and Environment

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