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In response to an article that ran in the daily newspaper Le Quotidien on August 16, 2017, the Maritime Information Bureau (MIB) would like to point out that virtually all aspects of the shipping industry are highly regulated, as shown below (ref).

1. International regulations

The very nature of shipping, which is central to global trade, requires regulation at the international level. International maritime regulations are developed by specialized United Nations agencies, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO currently has 172 member states and the conventions (about 30) it has developed since its creation address various aspects, including international shipping safety and security and the prevention of pollution from ships. According to the IMO, “[…] many Conventions now apply to more than 98% of world merchant shipping tonnage (ref).”

IMO convention signatory countries, like Canada, agree to incorporate these conventions into their national legislation, and, consequently, to apply them in their waters. In Canada, the responsibility for maritime regulations is shared by Transport Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. States determine the sanctions that will apply to offences in keeping with their national system.

For example, MARPOL (prevention of pollution from ships) is a well-known IMO convention. In Canada, the provisions of this international convention are incorporated into the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations.

2. Canadian regulations

Canadian and foreign ships navigating the St. Lawrence must comply with stringent Canadian and international standards. Where safety and the environment are concerned, Canadian legislation covers the following aspects, among others:

  • Crew training and required qualifications
  • Ship construction and certification
  • Ship inspection
  • Operations on land and at sea
  • Hazardous materials transportation
  • Navigation
  • Pilotage
  • Safety and security
  • Insurance and compensation funds
  • Environmental protection
  • Oil
  • Noxious liquid substances and dangerous chemicals
  • Marine pollution
  • Wastewater
  • Garbage
  • Grey water
  • Etc.

Consult the list of main Canadian laws governing marine transport.

3. Application of Canadian regulations

Transport Canada plays various roles in the legislative process regarding marine transport. The Department is in charge of preparing legislation governing ships, incorporating international conventions into national legislation and monitoring Canadian and foreign vessels’ regulatory compliance. Vessels entering Canadian waters are subject to inspections performed by Transport Canada to ensure compliance with the Canadian and international requirements applicable. Inspectors verify ships, structural condition, emergency systems, communications, equipment, handling of dangerous goods and other safety-related features. Inspectors also check crew members’ qualifications and competencies.

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