Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting Western Canada Marine Response Corporation to make a presentation to this committee.
WCMRC is one of four Transport Canada certified oil spill response organizations in Canada, and we're the only one on the west coast. We began operations in 1976 as an industry co-op under the name Burrard Clean. At the time, our duty was to provide spill response within Port Metro Vancouver’s waters. Following the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989, the Canadian government established the public review panel on tanker safety and marine spills response capability. The panel’s final report included 107 recommendations that ultimately informed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act in 1995.
The changes created an industry-funded, government-regulated spill response regime for all of Canada’s coastal waters. WCMRC became the only dedicated response organization for the west coast. Three other response organizations operate on the east coast. Our state of preparedness is funded by membership fees from shipping and oil-handling companies that operate along the west coast and from bulk oil cargo fees.
Any vessel larger than 400 tonnes calling on a B.C. port is required to have a membership with WCMRC. Any oil-transporting vessel over 150 tonnes is also required to pay membership fees. This includes tankers, barges, and refuelling vessels. In total, we have nearly 2,200 members. However, if a vessel is transiting Canadian waters and not calling on a Canadian port, they are not required to have a membership with a response organization. In the event of a spill, the responsible party is required by law to pay 100% of the cleanup costs up to the liability limit.
In order to demonstrate to Transport Canada that they are in compliance with the law, vessels must have a shipboard oil pollution emergency plan, and oil-handling facilities must have an oil pollution emergency plan. Both groups must also have a certificate outlining their arrangement with a response organization, proof of financial responsibility, and the name of the person authorized to implement the plan.
Under the amended Canada Shipping Act, response organizations in Canada require certification by Transport Canada. Response times, capacity, and planning standards are laid out in the Canada Shipping Act. The planning standards are not an indication of how long a response would take; they are meant to determine performance requirements. Actual response times would typically be less.
As a Transport Canada certified response organization, we need to demonstrate our ability to respond to spills on a regular basis to maintain our certification. Transport Canada personnel attend and participate as auditors in certification exercises, while other agency personnel participate in actual response roles. In addition, WCMRC also participates in member exercises, annual joint exercises as part of the Canada-U.S. joint contingency plan, and cross-border exercises with mutual aid partners in Washington and Alaska.
Response organizations in Canada are required to have equipment to handle a 10,000-tonne, or 70,000-barrel, spill. WCMRC currently has 2.6 times as much equipment in place. Tiered response times are also defined by the Canada Shipping Act, which stipulates planning standards for spills within designated port boundaries, primary areas of response, and enhanced response areas. Currently Port Metro Vancouver is the only designated port on the west coast. Response organizations are also required to submit an oil spill response plan to Transport Canada every three years.
To meet these requirements, we have warehouses located in Burnaby, Duncan on Vancouver Island, and up in Prince Rupert. We also have 11 equipment caches strategically located along the B.C. coastline. We have a fleet of 31 response vessels and a booming capacity of 32,000 metres, two and a half times the mandated capacity. We train up to 200 responders every year, including first nations fishermen and marine contractors.
In the event of a spill, our organization is contracted by the responsible party to clean up the spill on their behalf and under their command. The Canadian Coast Guard monitors response operations and takes command if the polluter is unable or unwilling to respond. The operation is complete when we can no longer find product to recover and Environment Canada and the province confirm our assessment.
WCMRC has successfully responded to both light and heavy oil spills. We have a range of skimmers that can handle both types of product. The Canada Shipping Act planning standards suggest that on-water recovery operations take no longer than 10 days, and shoreline cleanup operations are completed within 50 days.
If a spill were to occur in or near a transboundary area, a response from two countries would be required by the agencies of the two nations. Joint spill response between Canada and the U.S. is governed by the treaty, the Canada-U.S. Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan. Together, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard manage the implementation and maintenance of this treaty. They exercise response strategies every two years.
WCMRC also maintains mutual aid agreements with response organizations in Canada and the U.S. These mutual aid agreements are formal contracts between ROs to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries when required. We currently have mutual aid agreements with NRC, Southeast Alaska Petroleum Response Organization, SEAPRO, and Association of Petroleum Industry Cooperative Managers, APICOM, as well as an operational agreement with Eastern Canada Response Corporation, ECRC.
As you are all likely aware, the tanker safety expert panel released a report late last year called “A Review of Canada’s Ship-source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime – Setting the Course for the Future”. The panel proposed 45 recommendations of which WCMRC is supportive, particularly the move to a risk-based regime. We support the idea that spill planning and the response resources allocated to prepare for spills should be based on risks specific to a geographic area.
In May of this year, the federal government announced new measures that act on recommendations by the tanker safety expert panel. These measures include establishing new area response planning partnerships for four regions, including the southern portion of B.C. Oil spill prevention, preparedness, and response in these four areas will take into consideration the area’s geography, environmental sensitivities, and oil tanker traffic volumes. The measures also propose amending legislation to provide the use of alternate response measures such as chemical dispersants and burning spilled oil during emergencies, and to clarify the Canadian Coast Guard’s authority to use and to authorize these measures when there is a net environmental benefit.
Finally, the measures propose strengthening the polluter pay regime by introducing legislative and regulatory amendments that will enhance Canada’s domestic ship-source oil pollution fund. These amendments will remove the fund’s existing per-incident liability limit of $161 million in order to make available the full amount for a single incident, which is currently around $400 million. It will ensure that the compensation is provided to eligible claimants and the recovery these costs from industry through a levy.
As part of the move towards a risk-based regime, WCMRC is developing a digital geographic response planning tool to coordinate our response activities. This award-winning application is shared and accessible to all WCMRC responders, allowing us to coordinate and map the locations of our available vessels, equipment, and personnel. The app displays data in real time so that we can quickly identify priority areas that may require a protection strategy based on potential sensitivities, topography, surrounding infrastructure, and known threats and hazards. It also houses a database of site-specific response plans, which provide information on booming strategies and staging points.
That concludes my prepared remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
Similar to WCMRC, Seaspan is an establishment that's been on the B.C. coast for a long time. In fact our roots go back to 1886, and our shipyard business goes back all the way to 1902. For those of you who may not know Seaspan, we have a multi-faceted, diversified marine business here, focusing on areas both on the water and on land.
On the water, we currently operate about 111 barges that run up and down the coast, primarily in the forest products and aggregate business and also some oil and chemical business. We also operate 35 tugs, 20 of which are in the business of actually pulling those barges up and down the coast, but 15 of them operate in the business of docking, undocking, and escorting all vessels in the port of Vancouver, Roberts Bank, the Fraser River, and Victoria. With the exclusion of the north, Prince Rupert and Kitimat, at least for today, we do the primary number of dockings and undockings. To put that into shape, that's about 3,200 dockings and undockings in the port of Vancouver alone. We do more than 1,000 at Roberts Bank, which is the largest export terminal in North America for coal. We've also done about 20,000 separate escorts in the last 30 years underneath the area called the Second Narrows Bridge.
It's a very important part of the discussion and you'll hear it, obviously, when you're hearing about topics like twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline: safe transportation and navigation in the B.C. coast. A lot of people, even in this area right here in Vancouver, don't realize that tankers have been safely navigating this area since 1952, and Seaspan has been a big part of that safety regime. Again we have 20,000 escorts through the port of Vancouver. All of that goes between a 450-foot span at the rail bridge right at the Second Narrows. So there is an exceptional safety record, with no incidents during any of that period of time, and it's something that Seaspan and our mariners are very proud of.
Outside of our tug and barge business, we are also a ferry operator. After B.C. Ferries, we are the second largest operator of ferries in western Canada.
Last but not least and what some in the committee may know us for, we're also one of the largest shipowners in Canada, and on October 19, 2011, we were very fortunate to be chosen as the non-combat builders for the national shipbuilding procurement strategy. So we'll be cutting steel very soon on our first vessel for the Canadian Coast Guard, in building hopefully 20 to 30 years' worth of ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard.
That's a little bit about Seaspan and who we are. Obviously it's a long history. We have about 2,500 employees. We'll be reaching about 3,500 within the next three years. Everything we do revolves around the ocean and the sea and the protection of the sea.
I myself am actually a former mariner. I sailed for a number of years in the international market. I hold a 1,600 ton captain's licence, which means I could actually be a captain on everything in the Seaspan fleet. I also sailed internationally on tankers. So the carriage of dangerous goods is something I personally know quite well. I sailed all the way up to unlimited chief officer, unlimited vessel size, unlimited ocean.
T hat is something on the marine business. I can't tell you much about mining or some of the other great things that go on here in British Columbia, but we know the marine business quite well.
When I look back at the question about safety and what this committee was looking at, there was one thing I really wanted to speak about, and that's the regulations. What we see, as an operator in British Columbia, is that we fall predominantly under the federal regime here. We also have some provincial regulations, but it is predominantly federal. We are at a point where we have to deliver safety to our employees first, our crew, and then our customers and their products. In order to do that, a lot of regulations have come out, especially I would say, more in the last 20 years than in the previous 100 years, say, and they were all aligned specially by Transport Canada to make a safer regime for mariners and the products.
I'm a strong believer in regulation. I know you probably wouldn't imagine a CEO of a marine company saying that, but I do. I do because it's a differentiator, and it's ultimately what keeps people safe. The reason I bring this up as something important is that Seaspan follows the rules. There are some great companies that you probably know, such as Fednav, out east. A number of Canadian operators follow the rules. Unfortunately, there are a number of Canadian operators, especially in the small vessel class, that don't follow the rules.
Back in 2011, the regional director general for Transport Canada located here in Vancouver presented to our officers conference on what Transport Canada was doing. We had about 300 of our marine officers talking about topics like safety operations, everything that's going on in Seaspan, and we had Transport Canada make a presentation.
At the end of the presentation, the mariners—not me, but the actual mariners—shared with Transport Canada their dismay that there were two standards. There were standards that companies like Seaspan followed with regard to safety, safety management systems, quality management systems, and then there was everybody else. Yet no one seems to check on them. The regional director general took it on himself and said, “That doesn't sound right. We're going to do something about that”.
In the fall of 2011, shortly after that officers conference.... Unfortunately, Transport Canada does not have any boats to actually go out to do surveys, audits, and checks of vessels, so they did two four-day inspections, along with the RCMP, who thankfully do have boats. They focused on tugs and barges, and especially those vessels transporting dangerous goods and petroleum. They boarded 33 vessels on those two four-day patrols, and they found that 64%, or 21 of the 33 vessels, in some way were not in compliance with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. That was 64%. Those not in compliance were all given notices, and in some cases even administrative monetary penalties.
The problems they saw included life-saving equipment not being up to date, and non-valid certificate of competency. Believe it or not, they found one master who did have his licence with him, but it had expired 10 years earlier. There were medical certificates out of date or absent, non-adherence to marine personnel regulations, and structural deficiencies. In most cases, the masters were not even fully aware of what the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 actually discussed or contained.
They did say that most of these issues were on the smaller vessels, but 64% of all of the vessels that were checked, in a very, very small period of time, failed. When I talk about regulations, I'm very serious about it because there's a reason for them.
We just heard from WCMRC about a lot of change in the oil response business due to the Exxon Valdez incident in the spring of 1989. We don't want to see another incident occur and then have more regulations created at that time. The regulations that are currently on the books, the ones that are already involved with the Canada Shipping Act, are good regulations. My point is that they have to be enforced.
Transport Canada, the folks we see and know and work with closely, do a fantastic job. Their hearts are in the right place. Unfortunately, I don't see that they have the budget. They don't have the manpower and the womanpower, and they don't have the vessels to actually do the audits and inspections in order to make sure that regulations are being adhered to.
Last but not least—it was brought up by the previous speaker—I think the tanker safety expert panel that was conducted in 2013 was an excellent example of the federal government listening to all of the areas, both the east coast and west coast, on how tankers can and should be safely transporting dangerous goods throughout the B.C. coast. I really look forward to the three aspects that they focused on, which are prevention, preparedness and response, and last, liability and compensation, which is short for the polluter must pay. I believe they hit the nail right on the head in the areas they identified, and I certainly look forward to the federal government now turning those words into actions.
Thank you again for letting me speak this morning. That concludes my comments.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, everybody.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about important issues that relate to the shipment of dangerous goods and safety management systems in Canada's transportation modes.
I also wish to thank the committee for their patience with us and forbearance in getting us a slot to speak with you today.
As the president of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, I'm here representing the 18 port authorities that make up Canada's national ports system. I will be sharing my time this morning with Captain Yoss Leclerc, who is the vice-president and chief of marine operations at the Québec Port Authority, as you have mentioned, Mr. Chair. He also represents the 18 port authorities at ACPA.
I want to underline that Captain Leclerc brings with him over 15 years' experience as a merchant marine captain, having specialized in LNG carriers and tankers. He spent another 15 years on land, leading operations at the port of Montreal and Port Metro Vancouver, before moving to head up operations at the port of Quebec.
We wish to discuss the safety management systems used by our members and the private terminals and other users of our ports, and of course answer any questions that committee members might have.
From the outset, let me state that the marine and ports industry adheres to a strong and robust safety regime coupled with an equally strong track record.
I also want to highlight the fact that every day, Canadian ports support our country's economic growth and move our trade in a safe and reliable manner.
As I have said many times however, expanded trade agreements between Canada and international partners are making our world smaller. Traditional trade patterns are changing. Competition to carry and receive cargo is intensifying, so navigating this new environment effectively is crucial to Canada's economy and our standard of living.
That's why any future regulations or legislation relating to the transportation of dangerous goods being considered by the government should be proportionate to risk and integrated within what is already a robust international set of requirements.
We believe the current system both serves the safety of Canadians and the environment, which remains our top concern, as well as adequately supports our competitiveness as an industry. This is because Canada's port authorities operate in a complex environment within major national and international supply chains. By virtue of participating in a global industry, Canada's marine sector, including its port authorities, are subject to a wide range of international regulations and safety standards. ln short, the ports and the marine industry are already highly regulated both domestically and internationally.
Canada's ports are critically important to moving imports and exports around the world while creating jobs across Canada.
With 90% of everything that we buy and sell travelling by ship, maritime trade underpins the global economy. These are the goods we depend on every day: electronics, resources, food, and medicines.
A combined 162 billion dollars' worth of goods are shipped or received through Canadian port authorities every year.
Our ports handle nearly two-thirds of the country's water-borne cargo, contributing to job creation and economic growth, and creating over a quarter of a million jobs directly and indirectly that pay higher than average wages.
We're also proud that Canada's port authorities are strong believers in being responsible environmental stewards. Beyond adhering to established regulations in legislation there is a tremendous amount of independent personal activity, if you will, that is undertaken by the port authorities, which are committed to environmentally responsible and sustainable development. Almost all the CPAs, for example, are proud members of the Green Marine initiative, an internationally recognized certification program begun here in Canada for marine companies to reduce their environmental footprint and ensure the safety of their surrounding ecosystems and communities.
ACPA and Green Marine recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with the goal of jointly expanding efforts to reduce the marine industry's environmental footprint and encourage the industry to continuously improve its environmental and safety performance.
Last, Canada's port authorities are committed to being positive contributors to our communities in many areas, including education, health and welfare, and again the environment.
I would now like to turn it over to my colleague, Captain Leclerc, who will provide further details about the robust safety regulations already in place within the marine shipping sector.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members for allowing us this opportunity to speak to our strong safety record, and to our commitment to working with our key partners to continue to strengthen this record.
Let me begin by stating that Canada's port authorities are keenly aware of their responsibility to protect community safety and the safety of all port employees and users, including our private sector tenants. We are also aware of the need to ensure that our operations are environmentally responsible.
Of course, there is a good reason for that. A number of commodities handled by Canadian ports are classified as dangerous goods according to the international maritime dangerous goods code, IMDG.
As Canada continues to negotiate free trade agreements with countries around the world, it is expected that commodity throughputs in our ports will continue to grow, including dangerous goods. Given this potential growth, it is in our best interest to ensure that this committee and other decision-makers are aware of current safety and security regimes and practices in our ports.
Within our sector, Transport Canada introduced safety management regulations under the Canada Shipping Act in 1998. These regulations were enacted to meet our international obligations to comply with the International Maritime Organization's international management code for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention, the ISM code. That is the code that was used.
Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act regulates the movement of dangerous goods by rail and road, while the international maritime dangerous goods code, the IMDG code, regulates sea transport. The IMDG code is implemented through the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and its related regulations, as well as the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.
In addition, other IMO requirements play a role in the safety regime in Canadian ports. These requirements include IMO's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MARPOL, and the International Convention and Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, STCW. The STCW convention's chapter V addresses the special training requirements for a crew on board oil, chemical, and liquefied natural gas tankers.
Canada's ports also support Transport Canada's role in port state control where Transport Canada inspectors board foreign vessels to ensure they comply with the major international conventions adopted by Canada. Vessels that do not meet robust Canadian safety standards are detained until their deficiencies are corrected.
Many Canadian ports are also defined as mandatory pilotage zones, where all vessels over a certain size threshold are required to have a marine pilot with local knowledge on board to guide the vessel into and out of their harbours. All oil tankers must have a marine pilot on board.
In the case of emergencies within ports, various federal, provincial, municipal, and private agencies and organizations work cooperatively to respond to any incidents that occur. Ports regularly test the effectiveness of their emergency response plans, including conducting emergency simulation exercises.
Safety management systems augment rigorous domestic and international regulatory regimes. The Canada Marine Act requires Canadian port authorities to put in place a framework to ensure order and safety. Each member of the national ports system has its own safety management system in place.
With strong domestic, international, and port-specific safety regimes in place, it is no wonder that marine safety continues to improve, especially in the last decade.
For the marine shipping sector, Transport Canada data show that there were zero reported in-transit dangerous goods incidents between 2006 and 2011. ln terms of collision-related injuries and fatalities per tonne per kilometre, the marine mode of transport led with the lowest number of both from 2002 to 2011. Marine accident rates have also declined about 10% over the last decade. Data and analysis from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada also confirm this.
I will conclude by stating that on behalf of the 18 port authorities that make up the national ports system, we believe that the current safety regimes and safety management systems in place are appropriate to the risks presented. We do not believe that additional regulations are required.
We remain committed to maintaining our strong safety record, and indeed, to always striving to do better, and we look forward to assisting the committee as it reviews the robust systems already in place.
We also want to work with the committee and our other partners to ensure Canada remains a world-leader in the marine shipping sector.
Thank you. Merci.
Actually, the Liberal Party did oppose the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Office, if I remember the votes exactly on that one.
Mr. Whitworth, I'll start with you. I appreciate your earlier testimony about both the Douglas Channel and the Second Narrows Bridge, and the safety record, for example, of transiting the Second Narrows. I transited that by water this summer on my visit out in Vancouver. I was in Kitimat and in Prince Rupert as well. I got to see the Douglas Channel first hand.
Those of us who live on the Detroit River have the Livingstone Channel that's about the same clearance width—450 feet—as the Second Narrows Bridge. They've been piloting 1,000-foot lake freighters up and down there without incident or problem for decades on end, so there is something to be said for the overall safety of marine transport, including the very large classes of ships, regardless of cargo content. So your comments are taken with appreciation.
Mr. Lowry, in your testimony you said you support a move to risk-based planning within response areas. I want to probe what you mean by that, and why you support that. Is that because it would allow your organization to either shift resources or response away from lower risk areas under your jurisdiction, or are you looking at this that in fact no area would lose resources as a result of risk analyses, but that you need to target higher resources to certain risk areas such that no area actually gets fewer resources? Or are you talking about an actual shift, fewer resources in one area and more to another within your operations? Can you clarify that for the record, please?