Speech Article from  Transport Canada

Speaking notes for The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, to address the International Union of Marine Insurance Spring Meeting

Niagara Falls, Ontario

March 24, 2014 

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Introduction

Thank you for your kind introduction.  I was delighted to accept the Canadian Board of Marine Underwriters’ invitation to this meeting.

I recognize the valuable role CBMU plays, as one of the oldest associations involved in maritime issues in the country, in advancing the interests of the marine transportation sector – a goal I share.

Before I offer my perspective on the topics being discussed here today, let me first extend a warm welcome on behalf of the Government and people of Canada to all the international delegates visiting Niagara Falls.

Canada is proud to play host to this prestigious gathering, particularly given the importance of global cooperation in marine matters.

I realize I am preaching to the converted when I say that maritime commerce is important not only for our country, but also to the world economy.

Enabled by global shipping, the dramatic growth in international trade in recent years has created extraordinary opportunities for increased business between our nations.

As both a trading and a maritime nation, this has major implications for Canada.

To quote our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper:  “Surrounded as we are by three oceans, it can truly be said that Canada and its economy float on salt water.”

Canada’s economic performance

The Harper government is committed to fully capturing the benefits of increased global commerce to create jobs, economic growth and prosperity for Canadians.

We are proud of our track record in realizing this goal.

Since the depths of the recession, Canada has created more than one million net new jobs – over 85 per cent of them full-time and in the private sector.  This is the strongest job growth among G7 countries.

Not a single Canadian bank had to be bailed out during the credit crisis, and the World Economic Forum continues to rank Canadian banks the soundest in the world.

We have the best net debt-to-GDP ratio of G7 nations, which has earned us a triple-A credit rating from all the major agencies.

And we are poised to return to a balanced budget next year, at a time when many Western governments are still facing large deficits.

Our record of fiscal prudence and sound economic management has drawn international recognition. The OECD, the IMF and Bloomberg have ranked Canada one of the best countries in the world to do business.

Increased trade

To capitalize on these strengths, we have launched an ambitious free trade agenda. Canada has concluded free trade agreements with ten countries and is negotiating with about 30 more.

This includes two of the largest agreements ever signed.

Late last year, we announced an historic agreement-in-principle with the 28-nation European Union.

This will open markets in the EU, giving Canadian businesses access to half a billion affluent customers and creating thousands of jobs for Canadians.

And, earlier this month, Prime Minister Harper signed an agreement with Korea – our first with an Asian country.

This landmark achievement will provide access for Canadian businesses and workers to the fourth largest economy on the continent, with an annual GDP of 1.1 trillion dollars and a population of 50 million people.

All of this will translate into unprecedented opportunities for trade and commerce.

Canadian exports to Korea alone, are projected to grow by 32 per cent. Much, if not the majority, of this new business will involve maritime shipping.

Balanced approach

As Canada’s Minister of Transport, I have a responsibility to ensure that marine transportation supports trade and economic growth.  Of course, we already know that it does.

In 2011, ships carried 342 millions of tonnes of international cargo.  This amounted to more than 200 billion dollars worth of Canada’s international trade, including close to 100 billion dollars in exports.

A further 62 million tonnes of cargo is transported domestically by ships operating between Canadian ports on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans and along the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes System.

I have an equal duty to make sure we have adequate laws and regulations to help mitigate any associated risks with marine commerce that might compromise public health and safety or the environment.

Even though Canada has one of the best transportation safety records in the world, our government understands that to prosper in today’s global economy, we need safe, secure, environmentally responsible and efficient transportation networks.

This is essential to greater trade and economic growth that will create jobs and help build future prosperity.

Given the international nature of maritime trade, it necessitates that we work with other governments and sector partners. Traders and markets must have confidence in the safety and efficiency of our transportation systems.

For instance, we collaborate on the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea –more commonly known as HNS.

We consulted stakeholders on a discussion paper released in October 2010 about whether Canada should sign the amended Convention.

We found there was widespread support so, in October 2011, Canada signed the HNS Protocol.

Bill C-3

The amendments to implement the HNS Protocol in the Marine Liability Act are reflected in Bill C-3, the new Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act working its way through Parliament.

These amendments fill an important gap in the current liability and compensation regime for ships by protecting Canadians against the financial consequences of hazardous and noxious substances spills from ships.

They also ensure that ship owners carry the appropriate amount of compulsory insurance for the risks associated with the cargoes they carry.

As well, the amendments provide Canadians access to an international fund to provide compensation beyond the ship owners’ limit.

The amendments to the Marine Liability Act are also designed to keep pace with the rapidly developing shipping industry, which supports our government’s goal of Responsible Resource Development.

We are a trading nation. We rely heavily on marine transport for the shipment of our exports and imports.

We have a robust system in place to prevent accidents, but sometimes these accidents can occur, having serious consequences for our environment, citizens and our economy.

Spills of dangerous substances can be costly to clean up.  So our government is taking action and delivering results to Canadians by ensuring those affected by these spills are adequately compensated.

Bill C-3 also proposes amendments to the Canada Shipping Act 2001 which came into force in 2007.

The legislation governs safety and protection of the environment in marine transportation and recreational boating.

It applies to Canadian vessels in all waters and all vessels in Canadian waters and with respect to pollution, including the limits of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

The objectives of the Act include the harmonization of marine practices and ensuring Canada can meet its international obligations with respect to navigation and shipping.

Tanker safety improvements

With trade expected to grow significantly, the Government of Canada is working in other ways to strengthen the safety of Canadians and better protect our coasts and oceans.

Last spring, we launched a world-class safety system for tankers in our waters.  It recognizes that this is a shared responsibility among ship owners, shippers and regulators.

One pillar of a world-class tanker safety system is a liability and compensation regime that ensures polluters pay for oil spill clean-ups and compensates those affected by spills.

Another reflection of our commitment to safety is the fact that large crude oil tankers can no longer operate in Canadian waters without a double hull.

And all Canadian flagged tankers are inspected at least once a year to ensure they comply with current legislation and regulations.  These inspections now extend to foreign tankers.

This means that every foreign tanker in Canadian waters is inspected on its first visit to a Canadian port and again each year after that.

We have also expanded the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) to keep a watchful eye over ships.

Three aircraft, strategically-placed across the country, use state-of-the-art remote sensing equipment to monitor shipping activities over all waters under Canadian jurisdiction.

NASP also includes the Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution Program, which can identify potential spills from satellite images.

Investigations have led to numerous successful prosecutions against marine polluters over the years, with some cases resulting in significant financial penalties.

We are establishing an Incident Command System to allow the Canadian Coast Guard to lead and coordinate a more effective response to major incidents.

The Coast Guard will integrate its operations with key partners, including private-sector response organizations.

We are also:

  • Reviewing pilotage and tug escort requirements for vessels using our ports;
  • Improving our system of navigation aids – buoys, lights, etc;
  • Conducting research on diluted bitumen to better understand its behavior in the marine environment; and,
  • Developing options to enhance our current navigation system.

One of our most important steps was the appointment of a Tanker Safety Expert Panel.  It consulted with key stakeholders to improve our knowledge and understanding of how well the current system is working.

The panel reviewed our current preparedness and response capacity related to ships, and proposed new ways to bring Canada’s tanker safety system to a world-class status.

The panel submitted their first report in November of 2013 with recommendations to improve oil tanker safety on Canada’s east and west coasts.

Following the release of the Report, Transport Canada held outreach sessions across Canada with First Nations and stakeholders to seek their views on the report and other related studies.

The input received during these consultations will be taken into account in our further work on this project. We will take all necessary actions to prevent oil spills, clean them up should they happen, and ensure that polluters pay.

The Panel is now focusing their attention on ship-source oil spill preparedness and response requirements in the Arctic, as well as requirements for a hazardous and noxious substances system nationally. A second report will be prepared for fall of 2014.

Ballast Water

Ballast water is another regulatory matter affecting the safety of ships, crews and the environment.

Even as we seek to increase our international trade, we want to keep invasive plants and animals out of Canadian waters.

A global industry needs global solutions, which is why Canada has ratified and supports an international convention on ballast water.

Transport Canada is working in Canada, in the United States and internationally towards fair, compatible, practicable and protective ballast water requirements.

Conclusion

This success underlines the importance of working in partnership with people like you, who have the pulse of the global marketplace and the best interests of your companies and our countries’ economies at heart.

Meetings such as this one strengthen our working relationship.

They help us to map out a realistic future direction for marine commerce that supports trade and creates valuable jobs for Canadians

And they ensuring adequate health and safety and environmental safeguards are in place.

Working together, I am confident we can advance on these dual tracks goals to ship Canadian goods to markets around the world and promote our country’s prosperity.

I look forward to partnering with you as we realize these objectives.

Thank you.


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