Tanker Ban Legislation Introduced

The federal government introduced a bill to ban oil tankers along British Columbia’s northern coast on Friday, May 12. Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act, will apply to tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of crude or other persistent oils, banning them from stopping, loading or unloading within a zone extending from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the BC-Alaska border.

The exemption of tankers carrying less than 12,500 metric tonnes from the ban is intended to ensure that northern communities can continue to receive shipments of necessary fuels for heating and other purposes. The legislation also allows for Ministerial exemptions to vessels if their passage is deemed to be “essential for the purpose of community or industry resupply or is otherwise in the public interest”.

Persistent oils addressed in the legislation are listed in a schedule to the Bill, and include synthetic crude oils, partially upgraded bitumen and heavy blended fuel oils. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is not included in the moratorium. The legislation provides for the amendment of the schedule by regulation to add or delete any oil or class of oils.

The passing of this legislation follows a series of consultations leading up to the announcement of an Ocean’s Protection Plan in November. UBCM has actively advocated on behalf of members on these issues including through a submission on marine safety to Transport Canada.

This legislation represents a move towards addressing UBCM resolutions that support limitations of tanker traffic along the BC Coast (including 2015-B29, 2012-A8 and 2010-B139), and substantially addresses resolution 2010-B139 that calls for a ban on bulk crude oil tanker traffic through Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. Because it does not cover LNG, or the southern coast of BC, it does not address resolution 2008-B143 calling for a ban on the passage of LNG tankers in the waters of the Malaspina, Georgia, Jan de Fuca and Haro Straits and Boundary Pass.

Maximum fines under the legislation are $5 million. This legislation will effectively formalize a voluntary tanker-exclusion zone that has been in place since 1985.

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