Canada – stricter environmental protection measures now mandatory for cruise ships

Transport Canada recently announced that the voluntary environmental measures introduced in April 2022 for cruise ships had become mandatory. The objective was to ensure that cruise ships adopted more sustainable practices within Canadian waters.

The regulation aimed to safeguard Canada’s oceans and marine environment, aligning with Canada’s commitment to protect 25% of its oceans by 2025 and 30% by 2030, as announced during the 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC5) in February 2023.

Effective June 23rd 2023, cruise ships operating in Canadian waters would be required to adhere to specific regulations concerning the management of greywater and sewage.

The regulations for the cruise ship industry include the following:

  • Prohibiting the discharge of greywater and treated sewage within three nautical miles from shore, an ice shelf or fast ice where geographically possible across Canada;
  • Strengthening the treatment of greywater together with sewage before it is discharged between three and twelve nautical miles from shore south of 60°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 (AWPPA); and
  • Reporting compliance with these measures in Canadian waters upon request.

Emma Forbes-Geary, Loss Prevention Officer at West P&I Club noted that Transport Canada’s requirements not surpassed international standards set by the IMO. Canada was now providing a level of protection similar to existing restrictions in place in Alaska, California, and Washington State in the US.

Failure to comply with the mandatory requirements may result in substantial fines, with a maximum penalty of C$250,000 under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

In addition to complying with the Canada Shipping Act 2001, all ships transiting through Canadian Arctic waters are subject to AWPPA, which prohibits any waste discharge in Arctic waters, establishing a “zero discharge” policy.