The London-based International Chamber of Shipping has strongly objected to proposed Canadian federal legislation that would “formalize” an informal ban on crude oil tanker traffic off British Columbia’s northern coast, affirming it would interfere with international maritime trade. The ICS represents the world’s national shipowner associations and 80% of the global fleet.
Introduced last May as part of the Trudeau government’s C$1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan, the so-called Oil Tanker Moratorium Act (Bill C-48) is being reviewed by the Transportation Committee of the federal parliament in Ottawa starting today (Oct. 19) prior to eventual introduction for final approval.
“Such a draconian step could lead to serious concerns being raised by Canada’s international trading partners” said ICS Director of Policy and External Relations, Simon Bennett.
For his part, Robert Lewis-Manning, President of the Vancouver-based Chamber of Shipping, told AJOT: “We are concerned that this legislation establishes a precedent and also a ‘two-tiered approach’ to managing risk and the Canadian marine safety network.”
According to Transport Canada figures, oil tankers account for under one percent of vessel arrivals and departures at British Columbia ports. Oil is shipped mainly through the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Kitimat, and most shipments are to and from coastal communities.
The proposed moratorium applying from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border is designed to complement the existing Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone in place since 1985.
Under key features, oil tankers carrying over 12,500 metric tons of crude oil or persistent oils as cargo are prohibited from stopping, loading or unloading these oils at ports or marine installations in northern British Columbia. Vessels carrying less than 12,500 tons of crude oil or persistent oil as cargo will continue to be allowed in the moratorium area so northern communities can be supplied with heating oils and other products. Penalties for defying the moratorium can attain C$1.5 million.
ICS asserts that the proposals have not been developed through an evidence-based process, and believes that it would establish an unwelcome precedent that might be emulated elsewhere, including by individual U.S. States, with the potential to impact greatly on the efficiency of world trade, as well as that of Canada.
ICS says that the environmental record of the shipping industry, especially the tanker sector, is impressive. On average, worldwide, there are currently fewer than two significant oil spills (over 700 tonnes) per year, compared to 25 such incidents per year thirty years ago, despite a doubling of the amount of oil transported by sea.
“We would instead encourage Canada to continue its strong history of environmental protection and support for responsible global trade through the implementation of practical measures consistent with international best practice. This includes respecting the UN International Maritime Organization’s role in developing safe and sustainable shipping regulations and recommendations that might address any concerns that Canada may have,” said Bennett.
ICS says that the global shipping industry fully recognizes the importance of robust environmental protection measures, and is committed to the goal of zero pollution, consistent with the comprehensive global regulatory framework adopted by the International Maritime Organization, in accordance with the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which Canada is a State Party.