Vessel owner responsibilities
Owning a boat comes with a lot of responsibility. Vessel owners are responsible for using it safely, keeping it in good working order and properly disposing of it when it reaches the end of its life.
If you own a boat or are considering buying one, check out Transport Canada’s information guide on how to be a responsible boat owner.
The Canadian Coast Guard is committed to working with responsible boat owners if and when their vessel becomes a problem.
The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act
The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act became law in 2019 and helps protect the environment while reducing the financial burden on taxpayers.
Under this Act, you may not:
- Abandon your vessel.
- Cause your vessel to become a wreck because you failed to maintain it.
- Sink, strand or ground your vessel on purpose.
- Leave your vessel in poor condition in the same area for more than 60 consecutive days within a radius of 3 nautical miles without the authorization of the location owner.
- Leave your vessel adrift for more than 48 hours without taking measures to secure it.
- Take possession of a wreck before reporting it to the Transport Canada, unless it is in danger and you need to secure or otherwise protect it.
- Enter into Canada with a wreck found outside of Canadian waters without reporting it to Transport Canada as early as possible.
If your vessel becomes wrecked, abandoned or hazardous, the Canadian Coast Guard can direct you to address your problem vessel. If you fail to follow these directives, it could result in financial penalties or fines or, in the case of a serious regulatory offence, imprisonment.
Penalties for non-compliance
Under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act the Canadian Coast Guard may issue an Administrative Monetary Penalty, in the form of a Notice of Violation, as a measure to encourage compliance.
For minor violations, the maximum penalty is $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for vessels or any persons (including corporations).
For serious violations, the maximum penalty is $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for vessels or any persons (including corporations).
If an individual or company receives a Notice of Violation, they may request a review of the facts within 30 days. The review is made to the Transportation Appeals Tribunal of Canada.
A regulatory offence prosecution for certain offences could result in a maximum fine of $1 million and/or up to 3 years of imprisonment for an individual, or up to $6 million for vessels or any persons (including corporations).
Vessel owners are responsible for the cost of addressing their problem vessel. This includes any hazard-related costs like cleanup or repairs and any remediation action taken by the federal government.
If the owner cannot be found or is unable or unwilling to address the problem, the Government of Canada can take direct and immediate action to prevent, mitigate or eliminate the risks that hazardous vessels pose.
What is a wrecked, abandoned, hazardous or dilapidated vessel?
A vessel could be considered wrecked if it or one of its parts is:
- Fully or partially submerged
- adrift or ashore
- stranded or grounded
This includes equipment, stores, cargo and any other items that were onboard the vessel.
A vessel is considered abandoned if the owner can’t be located after reasonable efforts are taken to find them, or if the vessel has been left unattended for 2 or more years.
A vessel is considered hazardous if it could cause harm to:
- human health, safety or well-being
- marine infrastructure
- the environment, including coasts or shorelines
- economic interests
A vessel is considered dilapidated if it is significantly degraded, dismantled or incapable of safe navigation.
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