Tanker Safety Expert Panel finalizes all-encompassing review of Canada’s spill response regime

By BCShippingNews
June 25 2015
Left to right: Captain Gordon Houston, Dr. Michael Sinclair and Richard Gaudreau
Phase II report focuses on ship-cource spills in the Arctic and hazardous and noxious substances...

Upon review of the Phase II report of the Tanker Safety Expert Panel — Requirements for the Arctic and for Hazardous and Noxious Substances Nationally — one might come to the following conclusions. First, there’s not much missing. The three-man panel consisting of Captain Gordon Houston, Mr. Richard Gaudreau and Dr. Michael Sinclair, has drafted an all-encompassing, comprehensive review of prevention, preparedness and response requirements for ship-source spills in the Canadian Arctic and of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) in Canadian waters. They are to be complimented on an outstanding job. The second conclusion is that, for the most part, Canada is starting with a near blank slate in developing programs and policies that would address both areas of focus.

Photo above: Left to right: Captain Gordon Houston, Dr. Michael Sinclair and Richard Gaudreau.

One additional observation: With an overall price tag for Phase I implementation estimated to be in excess of $100 million, Phase II would be significantly higher. Significantly. When BC Shipping News met with Captain Houston to gain insight into the efforts of the Panel, he did not hazard a guess as to the cost but noted that “you’re basically starting from scratch so yes, much higher.” He softened the remark by adding that recommendations for the Arctic could be spread over a number of years in tandem with the increase in commercial activities.

Follow up to Phase I

The Panel’s first report — A Review of Canada’s Ship-source Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime — offered 45 recommendations to the Federal Government covering areas of prevention, preparedness and response; strengthening the polluter pay principle; leadership and stewardship; communication and engagement; and continuous improvement. While the Panel concluded that “the overall preparedness and response regime is fundamentally sound,” the report noted that the last comprehensive review of Canada’s spill response regime was 20 years ago with the Brander-Smith Report and that, since that time, resource extraction, port activity and shipping traffic volumes had increased; new technologies and best practices in the field of oil spill response had been developed; and that the review would “set Canada on a course of continuous improvement.”

Of the 45 recommendations, the Federal Government accepted 44. The remaining recommendation — that of disbanding Regional Advisory Councils — was rejected, however, the Review had called for its dissolution because it had the impossible task of educating the public and providing advice to government without having any funding in place to do so. That may have changed as Houston believes that a budget has been established for RACs. So in a way, the result is better than the recommendation.

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