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

Transport Canada currently has a requirement for all Canadian-flagged tankers to be inspected at least once a year to ensure they are compliant with current legislation and regulations.

The new measures will increase inspections of all foreign tankers to ensure Canada achieves its policy of inspecting each one on its first visit to Canada and annually thereafter.

Systematic aerial surveillance and monitoring of ships

A watchful eye is kept over ships transiting waters under Canadian jurisdiction through the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP). Three aircraft strategically placed across the country monitor shipping activities over all waters under Canadian jurisdiction using sophisticated state-of-the-art remote sensing equipment including Environment Canada's Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution Program (ISTOP) - 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 financial penalties over $100,000. Nationally, the NASP flew 2,064 patrol hours in 2011-2012.  During these patrols, 12,032 vessels were overflown, 135 pollution sightings were detected and 73,315 vessels were tracked.

Long-term funding will be provided to support NASP and the program will be enhanced to boost surveillance efforts in areas such as northern British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Pilotage programs

All tanker operators operating within a compulsory pilotage area must take on board a marine pilot with local knowledge.  The boarding pilot's extensive knowledge of the local waterway can guide the vessel safely to its destination.

Canada's four pilotage authorities are responsible for providing safe, reliable and efficient marine pilotage services at ports in all geographic areas of the country. The four pilotage authorities in Canada are the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, the Pacific Pilotage Authority and the Laurentian Pilotage Authority.

Transport Canada will review the legal and voluntary measures currently in place to safely guide vessels to their destination.  This review will determine what, if any, legislative and/or regulatory changes to the Pilotage Act or the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 are needed by fall 2013.

Public port designations

The Government of Canada will designate Kitimat as a public port under the Canada Marine Act.  This designation will allow the port to put in place better traffic control measures to facilitate the safe movement of vessels.  A national risk assessment will help to identify other ports for this designation as well.

Incident Command System

As the lead federal agency to ensure an appropriate response to a spill, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) must work effectively with other partners to ensure the protection of the marine environment and public safety. As such, the CCG will adopt the Incident Command System, which will allow for a more effective response to a major spill and integrate its operations with key partners, such as Canada's private-sector response organizations. The Incident Command System is an internationally accepted emergency management system used for the command, control, and coordination of emergency response operations.

Scientific research

Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada 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. The results of these scientific research projects will fortify Canada's marine prevention, preparedness and response capabilities.

Results of this integrated scientific research will inform decision-making in the areas of spill-response technologies and countermeasures, enabling identification of best practices with regard to the selection of the best response tools in a given situation. This research will also provide better understanding of the effect of products, like diluted bitumen, on marine ecosystems. Finally, research will inform strategies to protect the marine environment and its shorelines.

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