Environmental Response

A CCG light icebreaker participating in pollution response operations.

Environmental Response [PDF Format - 1 MB]

The Canadian Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for the response component of Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Preparedness Response Regime. The Environmental Response program monitors or manages the clean-up efforts for any ship-source or mystery source pollution incident in waters under Canadian jurisdiction.

The Canadian Coast Guard

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is a special operating agency of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. It owns and operates the federal government’s civilian fleet and provides key maritime services to Canadians. CCG’s responsibilities include: maritime safety; protection of marine and freshwater environments; facilitation of maritime commerce and sustainable development; and support of marine scientific excellence.

The CCG vessel Sir Wilfred Laurier.

The CCG’s Environmental Response (ER) program’s mission is to ensure an appropriate level of preparedness and response capability for all ship-source and mystery source pollution incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. To that end, CCG implements a consistent approach for responding to marine pollution incidents in all regions of Canada. ER’s specific mission objectives are to:

  • Minimize the impact of marine pollution incidents on public safety;
  • Minimize the environmental impact of marine pollution incidents; and,
  • Minimize the economic impact of marine pollution incidents.

Each of the five CCG regions applies these mission objectives in their day-to-day operations. CCG ER headquarters provides the necessary policies, directives, guidelines, and systems to support the nationally consistent application of these objectives in all CCG regions in Canada.

Responding to Pollution

Response Operations

The CCG is the lead federal agency for all ship-source oil spills or pollution incidents in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. When the polluter has been identified and is willing and able to respond, the CCG will advise the polluter of its responsibilities and, once satisfied with the polluter’s intentions and plans, will assume the role of Federal Monitoring Officer (FMO). However, in cases where the polluter is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond, the CCG will assume the overall management of the incident as On-Scene Commander (OSC). In all cases, CCG ER will ensure an appropriate response.

National Support Team

oil slick on the water

The National Support Team (NST) exists to:

  • Coordinate the augmentation of CCG’s monitoring or response operations to a marine pollution incident through the cascading of human and material resources from across Canada and abroad;
  • Provide international assistance to a marine pollution incident;
  • Provide humanitarian aid in response to a natural or man-made disaster.

The NST is comprised of all CCG ER personnel and assets. A cadre of expertise is in place across the country and may be brought together, along with materiel resources, to provide a coordinated national response to a marine pollution incident. This concept may apply when the CCG serves as the OSC, FMO, or resource agency to another Government department. Cascading of the NST resources is done when the complexity of an incident exceeds the response capacity of locally available public or private sector resources.

Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime

sunken ship

In 1993, amendments to the Canada Shipping Act led to the creation of a network of private sector oil spill response organizations. Funded and operated by the private sector, the regime was established in 1995 to enable industry to respond to oil spills of up to 10 000 tons in Canadian waters south of 60 degrees north latitude. All oil tankers of 150 tons gross tonnage and all other vessels of 400 tons gross tonnage trading in Canadian waters, as well as oil handling facilities located within Canadian jurisdiction, must have an arrangement with a response organization. These arrangements are administered by Transport Canada as part of their responsibility for the overall Canadian Oil Spill Response Regime.

Contingency Planning

oil slick coming from a boat

In the event of an oil spill or other pollution incident in Canadian waters, CCG must be prepared to respond in a timely and efficient manner. In accordance with the Emergency Management Act, the CCG is required to develop and maintain a National Response Plan. This Plan defines the roles and responsibilities of the CCG and various government and industry agencies, as well as outlines the operational framework through which a response would be conducted.

Ultimately, the responsibility for marine pollution preparedness and response is shared between industry and the federal government. The CCG is dedicated to doing its part to protect and preserve the marine environment and its resources.

Training and Exercising

It is critical that the personnel responding to a marine oil spill incident have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform effectively. The specific training requirements for ER personnel are detailed in the National Training Plan, the operational aspects of which are implemented by all regions and detailed in their respective Regional Response Plans. The CCG ER training program consists of several separate courses as well as refresher training. The National Exercise Program is implemented to validate environmental response preparedness. Exercises are designed and conducted in coordination with clients, other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, energy boards, and other interested stakeholders.

International Cooperation

CCG staff deploy boom for pollution containment.

As signatory to the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response, and Cooperation, 1990 (OPRC 90), Canada provides advisory services, technical support, and equipment for the purpose of responding to a pollution incident outside of Canadian waters when requested. The CCG, in conjunction with the appropriate federal departments and agencies, administers these services. The CCG ER headquarters, in cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, is responsible for the expeditious movement and repatriation of Canadian resources.

In addition, CCG ER is responsible for the provision of the Canadian coordination of Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plans with neighbouring countries. At present, such plans have been signed with both the United States and France, and are being negotiated with Denmark and the Russian Federation.

Cost Recovery

Salvage of the grounded tanker Rio Orinoco.

In accordance with the Marine Liability Act, the owner of a ship is strictly liable for oil pollution damage including reasonable costs for clean-up, monitoring, preventative measures, and reinstatement measures. This is referred to as the “polluter-pay principle.”

Three funds may assist in paying for oil pollution clean-up costs. The Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund (SOPF) is Canada’s domestic fund and is under an independent administration. It is liable for claims relating to oil pollution damage, costs and expenses of oil spill clean-up, and preventative measures and monitoring from all classes of vessels. In addition, a widely defined class of persons in the Canadian fishing industry may claim against the SOPF for loss of income caused by an oil spill from a ship and not otherwise recoverable under the Marine Liability Act.

people working on a pier

The 1992 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC Fund) and the 1992 Civil Liability Convention (CLC) provide the international liability and compensation regime for pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers, whether carried on board as cargo or in bunkers. Under the CLC regime the owners of a tanker are liable to pay compensation up to a certain limit for oil pollution damage following an escape of persistent oil from their ship. If that amount does not cover all admissible claims, further compensation is available from the IOPC Fund if the damage occurs in a contracting state. The IOPC Fund is financed by levies paid by entities that receive certain types of oil in the ports of contracting states.

For more information, please contact:

Manager, Environmental Response
Maritime Services
Canadian Coast Guard
5th Floor, Centennial Towers
200 Kent Street
Ottawa, Ontario
KIA 0E6

Facsimile: (613) 996-8902
Website: www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca/eng/Ccg/er_Home