Canada clamps down on cruise ship pollution

2023-07-02T17:26:09+00:00 July 2nd, 2023|Environment|

Earlier this month, Canada’s Ministry of Transport (Transport Canada), the Hon Omar Alghabra (pictured), announced mandatory environmental measures for cruise ships effective immediately.

The measures address discharges of greywater (the drainage from sinks, laundry machines, bathtubs and showers, or dishwaters) and sewage (wastewater from bathrooms and toilets).

These measures include:

– prohibiting the discharge of greywater and treated sewage within three nautical miles from shore where geographically possible across Canada

– strengthening the treatment of greywater together with sewage before it is discharged between three and 12 nautical miles from shore south of 60 deg N using an approved treatment device in non-Arctic waters. This will complement existing regulations for Arctic waters under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act

– reporting compliance with these measures in Canadian waters upon request.

Last year, the Canadian Government implemented these measures on a voluntary basis, but going forward, cruise ships will be subject to fines for non-compliance, up to the maximum permitted (Can$250,000) under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

These measures will better protect Canada’s oceans and the marine environment, and will support the work that is underway to conserve 25% of Canada’s oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030, Transport Canada said.

“Cruise ships are an important part of our economy and tourism sector, but they need to operate in a more sustainable manner to protect our waters and our environment. The measures introduced are additional tools in our tool box to keep them accountable. We are committed to continuing to work with industry to implement these measures, keeping our coasts clean for Canadians to enjoy,” Minister Alghabra said.

“These measures apply to cruise ships transiting through Canada’s Marine Protected Areas and marine refuges, and making them mandatory underlines our commitment to safeguarding our oceans for future generations as we support economic opportunities. With the threat of climate change and ongoing human activities impacting oceans, protecting them now has never been more urgent,” added Joyce Murray, Canadian Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Transport Canada explained that in April, 2022, new voluntary environmental measures for cruise ships were announced. This latest announcement makes those measures mandatory.

These measures are being implemented by an Interim Order, which has the same effect as a regulation, but allows for action to be taken immediately, while the process for making the regulations mandatory for the longer term is being implemented.

An Interim Order has the same outcome as a regulation with respect to inspections and enforcement. Cruise ships will be required to comply with the measures outlined in the Interim Order, and if a vessel is found to be non-compliant during inspection, enforcement action will be taken as with regulations, including the administration of monetary penalties up to a maximum of Can$250,000.

These measures align, and in some cases exceed, international standards set out by the IMO, the Ministry added. Furthermore, the enhanced measures provide comparable protection to those in the US that have implemented restrictions, including Alaska, California, and Washington State.

Greywater can contain laundry detergent, cleaners, nutrients, solids, cooking oils, and grease, as well as hazardous carcinogens and other pollutants.

Sewage contains fecal coliforms, ammonia, chlorine, and can contain a variety of toxic pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and organochlorides.

In addition to being subject to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, Arctic waters are also, unlike other Canadian waters, specifically subject to the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, which already regulates the deposit or discharge of waste.

Transport Canada added that Canadians deserve clean waters and a clean environment. Even though cruise ships are important to the domestic tourism sector, representing more than Can$4 bill annual input into the Canadian economy and directly and indirectly generating around 30,000 middle-class jobs per year.