Policy and Operational Procedures on Assistance to Disabled Vessels

Policy and Operational Procedures on Assistance to Disabled Vessels [PDF 60 KB]

1. Policy Statement

  • This policy will be followed when a request for assistance from a disabled vessel is received to determine whether, how, and to what extent assistance shall be provided based on the risks involved. All relevant risks will be considered, including those related to persons requiring assistance, the disabled vessel, CCG and its employees.

2. Application

  • 2.1 This policy applies to CCG and will take precedence over all internal CCG policies, directives, procedures, and instructions concerning assistance to non-CCG disabled vessels.

  • 2.2 CCG employees will follow the Fleet Safety and Security Manual procedures when a CCG vessel is disabled and requires assistance.

  • 2.3 However, when a CCG SAR resource is on scene and when lives are in immediate danger, i.e., in extremis, the Commanding Officer shall take any actions he or she deems necessary to save lives, including towing with persons on board. In this event, and when lives are no longer in immediate danger, Commanding Officers must re-evaluate the risks to determine how to evacuate the persons onboard.

  • 2.4 CCG will follow the Operational Procedures for Assistance to Disabled Vessel in Annex 1.

3. Guiding Principle

  • For vessels in distress, potential distress, capsized vessels or situations in doubt, the first consideration shall always be to save the lives in danger including measures to evacuate all persons from the distressed vessel and recover any persons from the water.

4. General

  • 4.1 Assistance at sea is a mutual service between mariners based on need and isolation. Assistance is typically provided without pause, as the providers know they may need assistance in the future.

  • 4.2 Given the foregoing, it is recognized that the timely provision of technical assistance to, or towing of, disabled vessels can be an effective way of meeting the national search and rescue (SAR) objective of preventing loss of life and injury.

  • 4.3 However, CCG will not assist disabled vessels merely on request and will not compete with commercial or private interests to provide assistance. Some incidents that involve CCG resources or the use of the SAR system are either preventable or unreasonable given limited resources that are available to respond to more serious incidents. Furthermore, they may place responders in unnecessary danger.

  • 4.4 Resources of CCG will not be tasked nor provide a tow to disabled vessels for the sole purpose of transiting from one place of refuge to another.

  • 4.5 If a disabled vessel requesting assistance refuses commercial or private assistance when available, this shall be considered a cancellation of the initial request for assistance. CCG will notify the master of the disabled vessel accordingly.

    4.6 If a disabled vessel refuses to evacuate when the Commanding Officer of the mobile facility responding requires the personnel to evacuate, this shall be considered a cancellation of the initial request for assistance. CCG will notify the master of the disabled vessel accordingly.

  • 4.7 CCG Pollution Response Officers have broad powers under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to address the threat or discharge of pollutants in Canadian waters and EEZ. Pollution Response Officers are authorized to take a wide variety of actions to remove or reduce the threat of marine pollution.

  • 4.8 CCG employees involved in the provision of assistance are not personally liable for any death, injury or property damage that could occur as a result of the assistance operation if they exercised due diligence and acted in good faith, within the responsibilities attached to their position, and within the mandate of CCG.

5. Interpretation

  • It is required to refer to Annex 2, “Terminology”, for definitions of some terms used in this policy.

6. Enquiries

  • General enquiries to this policy shall be directed to the Manager, Search and Rescue, Maritime Services, by email at infopol@dfo-mpo.gc.ca or by telephone at 613-990-3119.

Marc Grégoire
Commissioner