OTTAWA: The federal government has tabled new legislation that would deter owners from leaving vessels unattended in Canadian waters for extended periods of time.
Last week, the Government of Canada introduced the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act which prohibits vessel abandonment.
According to the Government of Canada, not complying with the act can result in a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for companies or corporations. Convictions of more serious offences could result in a maximum fine of $1 million for individuals and up to $6 million for companies or corporations.
Simon Rivet, senior advisor in media relations with Transport Canada explained the intent of the new act is not punishment but promoting owner responsibility.
“The act seeks to reduce and prevent cases of wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels through provisions that prohibit irresponsible behaviour that may be harmful to Canada’s marine environment and coastal and shoreline communities,” Rivet told The Reporter.
Rivet explained that the act introduces a penalties regime that is intended to promote compliance. For example, there are penalties for abandoning a vessel under the act.
“This deterrent did not exist in the past which is why owners could simply walk away from the vessel,” Rivet noted. “While there are new enforcement powers with sanctions under Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, the federal government is committed to public outreach and education by engaging with vessel owners and operators directly as a way to encourage compliance.
Other measures under development within the national strategy include improving vessel owner identification, creating a national inventory of problem vessels and developing a risk assessment methodology to prioritize response, and establishing a polluter pays approach for vessel clean-up through creation of an owner-financed long-term fund.
To monitor the thousands of kilometers of coastline, Rivet said the Canadian Coast Guard is developing a national inventory of wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels, as well as a risk assessment methodology to understand the extent of the issue and to prioritize response toward the highest-risk vessels.
“The inventory and risk assessment methodology will help the Coast Guard and partners maintain an awareness of the issue and risks to facilitate response, monitoring or contingency planning.”
While the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada are working to monitor these vessels in Canadian waters, the federal government will rely on regional and local partners, as well as individuals, to report these vessels.
“This means that anyone who finds a wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessel can report it directly to the Canadian Coast Guard,” Rivet pointed out.
Rivet added that the legislation is designed to encourage cooperation among various federal departments.
“For instance, when determining whether a vessel poses or may pose a hazard under Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, the Canadian Coast Guard would seek the expertise of partners such as Transport Canada or Environment and Climate Change Canada to make an accurate determination,” Rivet explained. “Additionally, the Coast Guard and Transport Canada may rely on partners to report vessels to Coast Guard’s single window so that Coast Guard can track and assess them for appropriate response.”