Spill Notification Point

Spills may be reported to the appropriate regional centre or nearest Vessel Traffic Service centre (24 hrs):

Atlantic Region

St. John's, Newfoundland:
Tel: +1-800-563-9089

Halifax, Nova Scotia:
Tel: +1-800-565-1633

Quebec City, Quebec:
Tel: +1-800-363-4735

Sarnia, Ontario:
Tel: +1-800-265-0237

Western Region

Vancouver, British Columbia:
Tel: +1-800-889-8852

Competent National Authority

Commissioner Canadian Coast Guard

Department of Fisheries and Oceans 6th floor, Centennial Towers 200 Kent St., Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E6

Tel: 1-613-993-0999 / 7728

Fax: 1-613-990-1866

Transport Canada Marine Safety and Security
330 Sparks Street Ottawa,Ontario, K1A 0N5

Tel : 1- 613-998-0610

Response Arrangements

Canada’s marine oil spill preparedness and response regime is built upon collaboration between government and industry and is based on the principle that polluters are responsible for paying for preparedness and response to damages caused by their pollution. The Canadian Coast Guard will monitor, and, where necessary, augment or assume management of the response when it is in the interest of the public.

The prevention and control of ship-source pollution is governed by the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA) and the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act. Under the CSA 2001, all tankers of more than 150 GT and all other vessels of more than 400 GT must carry an approved shipboard oil pollution emergency plan (SOPEP) to operate in Canadian waters.

Under the CSA 2001, the Department of Transport (Transport Canada) has responsibility for shipping matters.  The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), a special operating agency of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is the lead agency responsible for ship-source and mystery spills.  The CCG Marine Spills Contingency Plan defines the scope and framework within which the CCG will operate to ensure an appropriate response to marine pollution incidents.  Within port limits, the responsibility falls under the appropriate port authority.  Specific ports have developed spill contingency plans.  In military port areas, the primary responsibility is held by the Department of National Defence (DND), who will respond to all spills from their own vessels and facilities.

The CCG is divided into three Regions, each with an Assistant Commissioner and a Regional Director, CCG Programs.  They are responsible for ensuring the provisions of a preparedness and response capacity as outlined in the CCG Levels of Service. 

Privately-funded certified Response Organisations (ROs) have the responsibility to respond to oils spills from vessels with which they have arrangements and when contracted to respond.  Shipowners are required to have such an arrangement with one or more RO, depending on the intended destination(s) of the ship and the area covered by each RO.  However, there is no legal obligation to enact the arrangement and engage the services of the RO.  Alternative arrangements could be made using other resources, if it were deemed appropriate.  Below 60°N, Canadian waters have been divided into two principal areas: West & East Coasts with an RO established for each.  In addition, two further ROs have been established to cover specific parts of the eastern coast region.  Each RO has a Response Plan establishing the resources and strategies needed to respond to a range of spill scenarios within its jurisdiction.

The CCG will perform an assessment of a marine pollution incident and conduct initial response operations, where necessary.  However, the CCG will put the onus of a reponse on the polluter who is expected to appoint an On-Scene Commander (OSC) responsible for: providing the CCG with an acceptable response plan; directing the response accordingly; and deploying response resources. However, the CCG retains the right to intervene and assume the overall management of the spill response, for mystery spills and where the polluter is unwilling or unable to mount an effective response of its own.  In Arctic waters, above 60°N, the CCG will still put the onus of a response on the polluter.  However, since there is no industry funded response regime in the Arctic, the CCG maintains a response capacity in the Arctic should the polluter be unable or unwilling to respond.

The Department of the Environment (Environment Canada, EC) has responsibility for environmental matters relating to spills of oil and noxious substances and is the lead agency for land-based incidents from federal facilities. EC is divided into geographic regions within which the Environmental Protection Branch (EPB) is concerned with oil spill preparedness and response. EPB has produced Shoreline Protection & Clean-up manuals for the majority of the Canadian coastline.

Regional Environmental Emergencies Teams (REETs) are composed of representatives from various federal, provincial, territorial, native, municipal and local governments, agencies, and regulatory bodies; together with private and public sector groups, industry specialists, academics, environmental organisations and local individuals. REETs provide environmental advice to the CCG when responding to ship-source spills. This advice, provided also for planning purposes, includes that on weather and hydrological conditions, spill trajectory modelling, actual surveillance/monitoring, environmental sensitivities, protection strategies, clean-up priorities, the evaluation of the clean-up through the Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Team (SCAT) process, fate and effects, wildlife and fisheries protection, environmental restoration, and waste storage and disposal options/routes.

Effective from 8 August 2001, the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund is governed by the Marine Liability Act.  This Fund was established in 1973 to pay for claims arising from spills of both persistent and non-persistent oil from all types of ships. As Canada is party to the 1992 CLC, Fund and Supplementary Fund Conventions, the SOPF would only become involved in paying compensation in a case falling within the scope of these Conventions if the total value of the valid claims exceeded the Supplementary Fund limit.

Response Policy

The first priority is to prevent or minimise the loss of oil from a casualty by transferring oil, either within the vessel or into another vessel or shore tank. For spill response, emphasis is given to the containment and recovery of oil from the water surface, as far as weather and sea/river conditions will permit. The application of dispersants and the use of in-situ burning techniques are considered to be of secondary importance. Dispersants must be pre-tested and evaluated, and their use approved by EC. Approval would be granted where a ‘positive net environmental benefit’ was perceived. The use of dispersant is precluded in several areas, notably the Great Lakes and most of the St.Lawrence River, where drinking water is abstracted.

Protection of shorelines using booms is given priority over other techniques including mechanical recovery, manual removal, water flushing/washing and the use of sorbent materials. Bioremediation is considered to be a further option, depending on the circumstances involved. Recovered oil is recycled where possible. Disposal of oily debris is usually to landfill, although incineration may be used in some cases.



The CCG operates a large fleet of ships, hovercraft and helicopters.  In addition, a large amount of spill response equipment is located at approximiately 80 sites throughout Canada with dedicated, experienced personnel in major centres.  The equipment has been selected to be easily transported by road, sea or air, as much of the extensive coastline is relatively inaccessible.  Aerial surveillance and remote sensing is provided by Transport Canada and Environment Canada.


Four certified ROs exist. The Western Canada Marine Response Corporation and the Eastern Canada Response Corporation (WCMRC & ECRC) both have a response capability for spills based upon a 10,000 tonnes planning standard. The Atlantic Emergency Response Corporation (ALERT) Inc. covering the Bay of Fundy and Point Tupper Marine Services Ltd. in Nova Scotia each have a response capability based on a 2,500 tonnes planning standard and can cascade an additional 7,500 tonnes through mutual aid agreements with ECRC. Each RO must maintain equipment to meet all environmental conditions, up to a maximum of Beaufort Force 4, to complete on-water recovery operations within 10 days, to treat 500m of shoreline per day and have sufficient primary and secondary temporary storage to maintain operations.  ECRC's corporate office is in Ottawa with resources distributed between 7 ECRC Response Centres; Sarnia (Great Lakes) and Montreal, Quebec, Sept Iles, Halifax, Holyrood & Come-by-Chance (Eastern Canada). WCMRC, based in Vancouver, is autonomous. In addition, specific ports and other oil handling facilities have Tier 1 (<150 tonnes) level equipment dedicated to that facility and some Tier 2 (<1000 tonnes) level equipment.

Previous Spill Experience

The RIO ORINOCO (1990) grounded on Anticosti Island in the St Lawrence Seaway spilling 175 tonnes of IFO. Approximately 10 km of the coast was heavily oiled. Weather conditions and the onset of winter led to a protracted clean-up. The NESTUCCA (1988) barge collided with her tug off Washington State, USA, spilling about 800 tonnes of Bunker C. Some oil strayed to the west coast of Vancouver Island. The clean-

up response was again complicated by the poor weather conditions and by the remoteness of many of the sites. In 2004 the Terra Nova FPSO spilt an estimated 165 tonnes crude oil off the South-East coast of Newfoundland.  Where weather permitted, at-sea recovery was attempted, but the oil largely dissipated naturally in the open ocean. 

Hazardous & Noxious Substances

Transport Canada has been mandated to develop the national ship-source HNS incident preparedness and response regime and is in discussions with relevant stakeholders. The CCG is the lead federal agency for marine pollution response, but if an HNS incident occurred in Canadian waters, the CCG’s capacity to participate in any response – for which the polluter has, in any event, the primary responsibility – would necessarily be limited. (Information from Transport Canada’s background paper, Canada’s Ship-Source HNS Incident Preparedness and Response Regime, 2011).


Prevention & Safety

MARPOL Annexes

Spill Response



'69 '76 '92 '92Fund

* not yet in force 

Regional & Bilateral Agreements

  • Canada-United States Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan for waters contiguous to those countries.  With Denmark for Baffin Bay, Davis Strait and other joint sea areas.  With France for St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Date of issue: May 2013

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