Abandoned boats are a growing problem and have economic, social, and environmental impacts on local communities across Canada. They can pollute the marine environment, harm local businesses such as tourism and fisheries, damage infrastructure, interfere with navigation, and pose safety risks to Canadians. The Government of Canada, through its Oceans Protection Plan, is working hard to deter this irresponsible practice.1

In November 2016, Canada launched a $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan to:

  • Protect Canada’s marine environment;
  • Improve marine safety and responsible shipping; and
  • Offer new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities.

The plan includes a comprehensive program to reduce abandoned and wrecked vessels and to minimize the associated risks of environmental harm.

The Government of Canada has launched two programs to address legacy vessels of concern: Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program (ABP), and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Small Craft Harbours (SCH) Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program.2 The Abandoned Boats Program (ABP) has been designed to assist in the assessment, removal and disposal of abandoned and/or wrecked small boats that pose a hazard in Canadian waters.

The objectives of the ABP are to:

  • Reduce the number of abandoned and/or wrecked boats in Canadian waterways and the hazards they pose;
  • Contribute to the protection and preservation of the environment;
  • Reduce the impacts of these boats on Canadian coastal communities;
  • Enhance economic opportunities; and
  • Increase awareness of the boat owners’ responsibilities.

The ABP has multiple components, such as helping educate small vessel owners about how to responsibly manage their vessels and supporting research on vessel recycling and environmentally friendly vessel design.

On February 16, 2021, the Minister of Transport announced the most recent initiatives to receive funding for the assessment, removal and disposal of abandoned boats in Canadian waters. Under the Abandoned Boats Program, $1,692,079 is being provided to assess 44 boat removal projects in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and to remove 51 abandoned boats in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

In previous calls, eligible recipients may receive up to 100% of their total eligible costs for gaining legal possession of a vessel and for assessing the cost of removal and disposal of the vessel, and up to 75% for activities to undertake the removal and disposal of an abandoned and wrecked vessel in a small craft harbour.

In light of the economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada will pay 100% of costs for boat removal assessment projects and for boat removal and disposal projects, for a maximum of $50,000 per project instead of 75% as in previous years.3

Eligibility for funding include recipients such as:

  • Provinces, territories, municipalities and local governments;
  • Indigenous groups, communities and organizations;
  • Private ports and/or marinas;
  • Canadian port authorities; and
  • For-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

The Federal Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act came into force on July 30, 2019 and was last amended on August 28, 2019.4 The Act makes it illegal to abandon boats, increases vessel owner liability, and strengthens the Government of Canada’s response in cases where owners do not behave responsibly in disposing of their vessels at the end of their useful life.5

Under this Act, you may NOT:

  • Abandon your vessel.
  • Cause your vessel to become a wreck because you fail to maintain it.
  • Sink, strand or ground your vessel on purpose.
  • Leave your vessel in poor condition in the same area for more than 60 consecutive days within a radius of three nautical miles without the authorization of the location owner.
  • Leave your vessel adrift for more than 48 hours without taking measures to secure it.
  • Take possession of a wreck before reporting it to the Receiver of Wreck, unless:
    • The wreck is in danger and you need to take possession to secure or otherwise protect it; or
    • The Receiver of Wreck authorizes you to take possession.
  • Enter into Canada with a wreck found outside of Canadian waters without reporting it to the Receiver of Wreck as early as possible.

Under the Act, the Federal Government can:

  • Order owners of vessels or wrecks to take measures to prevent, reduce or eliminate hazards.
  • Take action to remove a vessel or wreck posing hazards, if the owner is unknown, or is unable or unwilling to respond.
  • Order owners of vessels to address their worn-down (dilapidated) vessel if they remained in the same location for 60 consecutive days without the consent of a person in charge of the location where the vessel is located.
  • Hold the owners of vessels liable for the costs of moving or removing their vessel that is abandoned, worn-down, or that poses or may pose a hazard.

The penalties for non-compliance include:

  • For minor violations, the maximum penalty is $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for vessels or any persons (including corporations).
  • For serious violations, the maximum penalty is $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for vessels or any persons (including corporations).
  • A regulatory offence prosecution for certain offences could result in a maximum fine of $1 million and/or up to 3 years of imprisonment for an individual, or up to $6 million for vessels or any persons (including corporations).

Unfortunately, boat and vessel owners continue to act irresponsibly, causing the following negative impacts: polluting the marine environment, harming local businesses such as tourism and fisheries, damaging infrastructure, interfering with navigation, and posing safety risks to Canadians.

Issues persist with the vessel registration system, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to hold boat and vessel owners accountable for their property. A coordinated approach between the Provincial government and the Federal government to improve vessel registration systems will minimize these negative impacts in the future.

The lack of availability of adequate facilities that allow for the safe disposal and recycling of wrecked and derelict boats and vessels also poses a threat to the positive developments the Federal government has undertaken thus far. In short, we must address the problem, which is ultimately irresponsible boat and vessel owners, and provide facilities to dispose of these vessels before they are abandoned.

Finally, a proactive and coordinated approach is required in cooperation with First Nations and local governments to build a comprehensive framework that can be used for addressing and assessing the financial and environmental risks of abandoned vessels in our communities.

THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS

That the Provincial government work with the Federal government to:

  1. Improve the vessel registration system so that vessel owners can be held accountable;
  2. Create a pilot “turn-in” facility for safe disposal and recycling of abandoned vessels; and
  3. Develop a strategy in cooperation with First Nations and local governments to build a framework that can be used for addressing the financial risks and assessing the urgency of environmental risks that abandoned vessels pose to our communities.

1  https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/minister-of-transport-approves-new-projects-to-address-abandoned-boats-across-canada-875519313.html

2 https://dfo-mpo.gc.ca/sch-ppb/vessels-bateaux/index-eng.html

3 https://dfo-mpo.gc.ca/sch-ppb/vessels-bateaux/index-eng.html

4 https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/W-12.3.pdf

5 https://dfo-mpo.gc.ca/sch-ppb/vessels-bateaux/index-eng.html