• World-Class Tanker Safety System
  • January 8, 2016 | Authors: Dionysios Rossi; Graham Walker
  • Law Firm: Borden Ladner Gervais LLP - Vancouver Office
  • In April 2015, the Tanker Safety Expert Panel (the "Panel") released Phase II of their report, "A Review of Canada's Ship-source Spill Preparedness and Response: Setting the Course for the Future, Phase II — Requirements for the Arctic and for Hazardous and Noxious Substances Nationally" (the "Report"). The Report is divided into three parts: (1) Arctic Ship- Source Spills, (2) Hazardous and Noxious Substances (“HNS”), and (3) Marine Casualty Management.

    Arctic Ship-Source Spills

    The Report found that the Arctic requires an improved and tailored prevention and response regime given its unique characteristics. The Panel indicated that Ice Navigators (i.e. persons who act as an advisor to a ship's master on the ice regimes being navigated and are required to be on board vessels that meet criteria specified in the Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations, CRC, c 353 (the "ASPPR")), play an important role in preventing ship-source spills. The Panel's review indicated that while the ASPPR set out the qualifications for Ice Navigators, there is no formalized training program or certification process required by Regulation. To remedy this, the Panel recommended that Transport Canada formally certify the Ice Navigators to ensure that they have the necessary experience.

    The Panel also indicated that Canada's current ice navigation systems are dated or inadequate and recommended that Canada's navigational infrastructure, including its charts and its ice navigation systems, be upgraded.

    The Report advocated for the development of systems that address the Arctic's unique challenges. To this end, the Panel suggested: (1) the classification of all oil handlings facilities according to risk, (2) the development of Arctic-specific standards of responses that all prescribed vessels and facilities are required to possess, and (3) the creation by Transport Canada of an oversight program to ensure compliance of these new standards and procedural requirements.

    Finally, the Panel noted that preventing and limiting ship-sourced spills will require important improvements that should be implemented incrementally and regularly reviewed over the long run in response to the Arctic's evolving situation. The Report recommended constant consultation with all stakeholders and continued research into improved methods for preventing spills.

    Hazardous and Noxious Substances

    Canada is a signatory to the IMO's International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (the "HNS Convention"). The HNS Convention introduces strict liability for shipowners and requires insurance and insurance certificates. The HNS Convention is not yet in force, but the Safe-guarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, which received Royal Assent in December 2014, incorporates many of its provisions into Canadian law by amending the MLA.

    Although the need for a HNS preparedness and response regime has long been recognized, a framework has yet to be established in Canada. The Report recommended establishing a comprehensive regime that draws on linkages between the marine industry, chemical producers, and the land-based hazardous-response community.

    The Report called for all ships carrying HNS and facilities handling HNS to have a comprehensive HNS response plan outlining in detail all facets of how to properly respond in the event of a spill. The Panel recommended that Transport Canada should develop an appropriate oversight program to ensure compliance with these new standards.

    The Report also called for the Coast Guard, in collaboration with governmental, community, and industry stakeholders, to lead the development of national and regional contingency plans for ship-based HNS releases. These response plans should be routinely practiced to ensure readiness, and the Coast Guard must ensure it has the resources and competency to respond to a spill.

    Finally, the Report recommended continued research into the behaviour and effect of HNS substances and called for government and industry to constantly track and share data concerning HNS movement in Canada. Using such data and research, and in collaboration with all stakeholders, Canada's preparedness and response regime should be continually refined to ensure maximum effectiveness.

    Marine Casualties

    The Report recommended that Canada create a centralized marine casualty decision making authority similar to those in place in the United Kingdom and Australia.