The prospects of shipping oil off the Pacific Coast has generated significant public interest in Canada. It is fair to say that the regulation of international shipping in Canadian waters is a highly developed and sophisticated regime using experienced participants working in conjunction with industry to regulate shipping in the public interest. Tankers are given closer scrutiny than other commercial vessels because of the potential pollution risk posed. There are opportunities for improvement.

This feature article in the Journal of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association argues that in terms of shipping oil off the Pacific Coast Canada the main problem is that we have ad-hoc and often reactive maritime policy development approach.


Is There a Path For Shipping Oil Off the Pacific Coast?

Jim Prentice, the former federal Minister of Environment, now executive vice-president and vice-chairman of CIBC bank, delivered a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade in February that highlighted the importance of the marine pillar to Canada’s energy policy. He observed that Ottawa has sole jurisdiction over our territorial waters. So it must take the lead in developing a management regime that will take into account the rewards as well as the environmental risks of increased west coast tanker traffic. Legislation will be required. So too will contingency plans for unforeseen eventualities.

The path for shipping oil off the Pacific Coast should include sustained independent policy funding. The way should seek input, incorporate and evaluate insights from academics, government, the private sector, and First Nations perspectives. Both industry and government investment, leadership, resources, and public communication are required to ensure a culture of continuous improvement as marine traffic volume expands and the overall vessel traffic mix changes in complexity.

See Joseph K. Spears and Darryl Anderson’s CHOA presentation.