Canada Seeks to Go Beyond International Maritime Arctic Rules

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By Peter Menyasz

Ships in Arctic waters would still be required to meet pollution-prevention rules that go beyond internationally agreed upon standards, Canada proposed.

Draft regulations to adopt the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code would require ship owners to meet Canada’s stringent current standards for waste, sewage, and oil pollution, the government said.

The proposed Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations would continue to prohibit the discharge of any waste, oil, noxious liquid substances and untreated sewage from ships in Canadian Arctic waters except where specifically authorized, but would add any stronger measures included in the Polar Code, Transport Canada said July 1.

“Although Canada has had its own unique domestic Arctic shipping regime based on the central tenets of precautionary ship safety and pollution prevention since the early 1970s, this regime contains certain measures that are now outdated and require revision to reflect advancements in ship design and technology,” the department said.

The regulations would repeal Canada’s existing regime for protecting Arctic waters, the Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations, but many of the existing requirements that go beyond the provisions in the Polar Code are reproduced in the new regulations, it said.

The Shipping Federation of Canada, which represents owners, operators, and agents in all sectors of the shipping industry, did not respond to a June 30 request for comment from Bloomberg BNA on the proposal.

The government noted that it had consulted with industry since 2013 on developing the Polar Code and how Canada would implement its provisions. An earlier draft of the proposed regulations was presented during Transport Canada’s Canadian Marine Advisory Council meeting in April 2016

The regulations are open to public comment through Sept. 14.

Canada was instrumental in developing the Polar Code, or International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, adopted by the International Maritime Organization in May 2015 through amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the government said.

Canada has since taken steps under each of those conventions to be bound to the Polar Code’s safety-related technical amendments on Jan. 1, 2018, it said. However, Canada would only be bound by the pollution-prevention amendments to MARPOL on Arctic waters after giving its express approval to the IMO, it said.

More Stringent Measures Maintained

The regulations would adopt all of the Polar Code’s safety-related requirements, but only those pollution provisions that add to or improve Canada’s existing Arctic shipping pollution-prevention regime, the government said.

For example, the code prohibits the discharge of oil or oily mixtures, but that would duplicate the existing provisions in Canada’s rules, it said. On the other hand, Canada’s current regime allows releases of untreated sewage, but the regulations adopt the more stringent rules in the code that only permit discharges from vessels of 400 gross tons or more or certified to carry more than 15 persons, it said.

Specific prohibitions that would go beyond the Polar Code’s requirements include:

  •  discharges of oil, unlike the code’s allowances for discharges of ballast containing up to 5 parts per million of oil, as well as oily water from machinery for certain vessels operating in Arctic waters for more than 30 days;
  •  carriage of certain noxious liquid substances, identified in the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk, on vessels built after Jan. 1, 2017, unless separated from the outer shell;
  •  deposits of garbage, other than food waste under certain conditions;
Adoption of the Polar Code is not expected to impose significant costs on industry or government as, other than some exceptions and improvements, the draft regulations are largely equivalent to Canada’s existing regime, the government said. Any additional costs to industry would be due to new vessel safety requirements, not the pollution prevention rules, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The draft regulations are available at

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