Dealing with derelict vessels

By MP Jean Crowder

Jean Crowder

Nanaimo North Cowichan MP

During the recent election, I promised to bring forward a private member’s bill dealing with derelict vessels.

Most of the work to draft the Bill was finished before the House rose in March, so I was able to introduce the legislation on June 16th.

Here is my introductory speech:

“In many Canadian coastal communities derelict and abandoned vessels have a negative impact on the natural aesthetics of their harbours, and some pose a threat to the local environment.

While major environmental dangers from derelict and abandoned vessels are dealt with swiftly by the Canadian Coast Guard, many are left to simply rot away and leach chemicals into the surrounding environment.

If an abandoned and derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken.

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities can become involved in the following situations.

Transport Canada can currently take a lead in instances where a vessel is the cause of an obstruction to navigation. However, vessels in the inter-tidal zone are rarely an obstruction to navigation.

Transport Canada has also been supportive of salvage claims made to the receiver of wrecks when questionable vessels appear ashore or in waters adjacent to communities. However, salvage claims are rarely made against derelict vessels.

Finally, Transport Canada can take the lead in making an assessment as to whether a vessel may pose a threat of pollution. However, an abandoned or derelict vessel that is deemed non-polluting is not dealt with.

Both I, in Nanaimo—Cowichan, and the member from Victoria often hear complaints about derelict vessels that are not dealt with. Hence, I have introduced Bill C-231, An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (derelict vessels and wreck).”

Many of our neighbours share a problem with derelict vessels. And the State of Washington has developed a fairly robust system that I used when drafting my own Bill.

There were some differences – Washington uses the term “aquatic lands” that has no comparator in Canadian law. But as in Canada, many different agencies and governments are responsible for navigable waters and dealing with hazards. So it is important to clearly lay out which agency will deal with wrecks and derelicts.

The Bill amends the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to ensure that regulations are made to establish measures to be taken for the removal, disposition or destruction of derelicts vessels or wrecks.

It provides that the Canadian Coast Guard shall be designated as a receiver of wreck and requires them to take reasonable steps to determine and locate the owners of the wreck.

My hope is that this legislation will give our communities more resources to deal with abandoned or derelict vessels.