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Harper Government Announces First Steps Towards World-Class Tanker Safety System

VANCOUVER, March 18, 2013 /CNW/ - The Harper government today announced a number of measures toward the creation of a World-Class Tanker Safety System. The implementation of eight tanker safety measures was announced along with the introduction of the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, and the creation of a Tanker Safety Expert Panel to review Canada's current tanker safety system and propose further measures to strengthen it. The announcement was made by the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources.

"Our government is working to strengthen the safety of Canadians and better protect the environment," said Minister Lebel. "I am pleased to announce the first steps towards the development of a World-Class Tanker Safety System off the West and East coasts of Canada.

"While our current tanker safety system has served us well for many years, it is essential that we strengthen it to meet future needs, as the transportation of Canadian exports is expected to grow and create many high-quality jobs in Canada."

"As a trading nation, Canada depends on marine shipping for economic growth, jobs and long-term prosperity," said Minister Oliver. "There will be no pipeline development without rigorous environmental protection measures and the tanker safety initiatives we are announcing today are an important aspect of our plan for Responsible Resource Development."

As part of its plan to create a World-Class Tanker Safety System, the government will, in the weeks and months ahead, work and engage with Aboriginal communities.

The Tanker Safety Expert Panel will review Canada's current system and propose further measures to strengthen it. In the coming months, the panel will consult with key stakeholders to enhance the government's knowledge and understanding of how well the current system is working, review our current preparedness and response capacity, and propose new ways to bring Canada's tanker safety system to a world-class status.

"Our panel will work on recommendations to make a strong tanker safety system world-class," said Captain Gordon Houston, Chair of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel. "Together, our panel members have 120 years of maritime experience and a deep commitment to the environment."

Today, the government has also tabled the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act, which is amending the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. The proposed amendments will:
  • strengthen the current requirements for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities;
  • increase Transport Canada's oversight and enforcement capacity by equipping marine safety inspectors with the tools to enforce compliance;
  • introduce new offences for contraventions of the Act and extend penalties relating to pollution; and
  • enhance response to oil spill incidents by removing legal barriers that could otherwise block agents of Canadian response organizations from participating in clean-up operations.

In addition, the Ministers announced eight measures to strengthen Canada's tanker safety system:
  • Tanker inspections: The number of inspections will increase to ensure that all foreign tankers are inspected on their first visit to Canada, and annually thereafter, to ensure they comply with rules and regulations, especially with respect to double hulls.
  • Systematic surveillance and monitoring of ships: The government will expand the National Aerial Surveillance Program.
  • Incident Command System: The government will establish a Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Incident Command System, which will allow it to respond more effectively to an incident and integrate its operations with key partners.
  • Pilotage programs: We will review existing pilotage and tug escort requirements to see what more will be needed in the future.
  • Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.
  • Scientific research: The government will conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to enhance understanding of these substances and how they behave when spilled in the marine environment.
  • New and modified aids to navigation: The CCG will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained.
  • Modern navigation system: The CCG will develop options for enhancing Canada's current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) by fall 2013 for government consideration.

Additional information on the tanker safety panel and other initiatives to strengthen Canada's Tanker Safety System for Tanker Ships can be found in the attached backgrounders or at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/mediaroom/backgrounders-menu.htm

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