Wrecked, abandoned, and hazardous vessels, including small boats, pose environmental, economic, and safety hazards, and are a concern for coastal and inland water communities across Canada. The Government of Canada, through its Oceans Protection Plan, is taking action to deter this irresponsible practice and recently passed Bill C-64: the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.
The Act prohibits vessel abandonment and brings into Canadian law the International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007. It increases owner responsibility and liability for vessels, addresses irresponsible vessel management, and enables the Government of Canada to remove problem vessels. Not complying with the Act now can result in penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for companies or corporations, while regulatory offense prosecution could result in a maximum fine of $1M for individuals and $6M for companies or corporations.
As part of the National Strategy to Address Canada’s Wrecked and Abandoned Vessels, the Government of Canada launched two short-term funding programs in 2017 to support coastal communities and other eligible recipients in removing and disposing of high-priority, smaller vessels: Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program. Transport Canada’s program also supports education and awareness activities and research on vessel recycling and design. Other measures being undertaken as part of the National Strategy include improving vessel owner identification, creating an inventory of problem vessels and assessing their risks, and establishing a polluter pays approach for vessel clean-up.
Launched in November 2016, the five-year, $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. Over the past two years, the Government of Canada has invested in hundreds of projects that are making the marine safety system stronger, and protecting coastal environments and marine species more than ever. Based on the latest science and technology, Indigenous partnerships and collaboration, these projects bring us closer to healthier, cleaner and safer oceans.
The Boating BC Association said the passage of federal legislation on the issue of abandoned boats underlines the need for boaters to take proactive measures and appropriately manage their vessels through to their end of life.
“We believe the passage of this federal legislation will serve as both a reminder and incentive for boaters to take action,” says Association President, Don Prittie. “We know the vast majority of boaters are responsible, and step-one is educating owners and ensuring they know how and where they can dispose of their vessels.”
Boating BC received a grant under Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program to support a public relations campaign that will be leveraged through municipal and industry gatherings and promoted by Association members throughout the province. An important aspect of the campaign is the creation of a data base that includes boat disposal options: www.boatingbc.ca/boatdisposal.