Canada to implement northern BC tanker moratorium

MAY 13, 2017 — The Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia says that a Canadian government decision to implement a moratorium on crude oil shipment to and from ports in Northern British Columbia "sends a dangerous economic signal while not addressing risk appropriately."

The Chamber's comments followed an announcement that the Government of Canada has introduced C-48, the proposed Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in Parliament, saying that it "will deliver on the Prime Minister's commitment to Canadians to formalize a crude oil tanker moratorium on British Columbia's north coast."

The legislation will prohibit oil tankers carrying crude and persistent oils as cargo from stopping, loading or unloading at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia. It is intended to provide a high level of protection for the coastline around Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

The proposed moratorium area extends from the Canada/United States border in the north, down to the point on British Columbia's mainland adjacent to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and also includes Haida Gwaii. Vessels carrying less than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or persistent oil as cargo will continue to be permitted in the moratorium area to ensure northern communities can receive critical shipments of heating oils and other products.

The legislation proposes strong penalty provisions for contravention that could reach up to $5 million. The legislation also proposes flexibility for amendments. Further refined petroleum products can be removed from the list on the basis of science and environmental safety. Products may also be added on this basis.

Since January 2016, the Government of Canada has held approximately 75 engagement sessions to discuss improvements to marine safety and formalizing the oil tanker moratorium. The Government has consulted extensively with Indigenous groups, and has also consulted with industry stakeholders and communities across Canada.

The proposed legislation applies to the shipment of crude oils defined by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. It also applies to related oil products that are heavier and, when spilled, break up and dissipate slowly. A complete list of these persistent products included in the moratorium is outlined in a schedule to the proposed Act.

SHIPOWNER OPPOSITION

The Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia says that it strongly advocates for the vigorous protection of the coastlines and has supported like the government's Oceans Protection Plan (OPP).

However, it does not support the moratorium.

"Firstly," says the Chamber, "it contradicts a crucial pillar of the federal government's stated approach to environmental protection: evidence-based decision making. It also flies in the face of the OPP, which commits to focusing resources on determining and addressing real safety and environmental risks identified through scientific research.

"Secondly, the moratorium sends a very harmful signal to the international investment community. Canada is now the first and only country in the world to legislatively ban the trade of multiple commodities. The establishment of this moratorium may have unintended consequences from coast to coast and set a precedent that could ultimately impact Canadian jobs and the economy."

"At a time when the U.S. is focused on its global competitiveness, this unnecessarily extreme approach tells our current and potential trading partners that Canada is closed for business," says Chamber President Robert Lewis-Manning.

The Chamber says that the federal government ignored its recommendations for a comprehensive marine spatial planning approach that would bring together multiple users of the ocean – including First Nations, government, industry, conservation advocates, and recreational users – to address concerns.

"This pragmatic approach," it says, "would have encouraged collaborative problem-solving, as well as clarity and consensus around policy development."

 

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