The Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development considered Canada’s marine pollution response regime in the fall of 2010. The chapter on “Oil Spills from Ships,” raised questions about Canada’s ability to handle a major marine oil tanker pollution incident. The report made a series of detailed recommendations to improve the pollution response by the government of Canada. When the report was tabled, Commissioner Scott Vaughan stated, “we note several areas of concern, from incomplete risk assessments to out-of-date emergency response plans…. These must be addressed to ensure the federal government is ready to respond to any ship-source oil spill occurring in Canadian waters.” The bottom line was that Canada is not ready for a major oil spill. Canada has been very lucky that there have been no major spills in the recent past and under the existing regime.


Marine Oil Pollution and the Canadian Federal Government

In response to the Commissioner’s report, the Interdepartmental Marine Pollution Committee (IMPC) was struck look at marine oil pollution response regime. Work has been ongoing since 2010. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is the lead agency on the IMPC. It is also the lead agency for ship-source oil spill response. The IMPC is mandated to address the report recommendations, and promote a whole of government approach to addressing marine pollution events. The last time Canada’s maritime oil pollution response capability was examined comprehensively was in the early 1990s – over 20 years ago – by the Public Review Panel on Tanker Safety and Marine Spills Response Capability. The current Canadian regime outlines the shipowner/operator – i.e., the polluter – responsibility to a pollution incident, and CCG oversight.

K. Joseph Spears in this Fall (2012) Canadian Naval Review article explores the Royal Canadian Navy’s role in a whole of government response.