Lac-Mgantic “sobering reminder” we have to continue work on safety: Canada’s new transport minister

by Canadian Shipper

NANAIMO, BC – Safety was top of my mind for Lisa Raitt as she delivered her first official speech as Canada’s new transport minister at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities conference Monday.

Raitt, who previously held the natural resources and labor portfolios under the Stephen Harper government, was appointed to her new post in mid July, less than 10 days after a trainload full of light crude oil crashed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in one of the worst transportation disasters in Canadian history.

“As you may know, two days after I was sworn in, I travelled to Lac-Mégantic to meet people affected by the terrible tragedy that struck their community, to listen to them and to provide my support. While Canada has one of the best transportation safety records in the world, Lac-Mégantic is a sobering reminder that we have to continue to work on safety,” Raitt said. “Be very aware that safety will be a very fundamental piece of what I do.”

Raitt, well known in transportation circles from her days as president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, said her government is already working towards boosting transportation safety in all modes.

  • In March, her predecessor, Denis Lebel, announced a series of actions aimed at tanker safety. Tanker inspections will be increased this year so that all foreign tankers in Canadian waters are inspected on their first visit, and again each year after that.
    • The Canadian Coast Guard will establish an Incident Command System to respond more effectively to incidents and integrate its operations with key partners.
    • Pilotage and tug escort requirements are to be reviewed to see what enhancements may be required to deal with growing traffic levels.
    • The Port of Kimitat will be designated a public port with all the associated safety and traffic control standards. Other ports are to be reviewed to see if similar designations are needed.
    • Ottawa will also conduct scientific research on non-conventional petroleum products, such as diluted bitumen, to better understand these substances and how they behave in the marine environment in the event of a spill.
    • The Canadian Coast Guard will ensure the installation and maintenance of aids to navigation that warn of obstructions and mark the location of preferred shipping routes. It will also develop options to enhance our current navigational system.
    • The Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which was tabled in March, will require terminal facilities to submit pollution prevention plans, and streamline penalties so polluters can be fined more easily. “Rest assured, if you are polluting you will pay,” Raitt warned. The Act will also strengthen the authority of Transport Canada inspectors and remove legal barriers that would prevent response organizers from acting in an emergency, Raitt said.
    • Finally, a tanker safety expert panel to review current preparedness and response capacity and make recommendations on possible improvements has been set up with Captain Gordon Houston, the former president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, chairing the panel.

But Raitt also warned that safety is not something that best accomplished by government mandate alone. It has to be a partnership with all supply chain stakeholders, she said.

The Association of Canadian Port of Authorities (ACPA) conference continues till Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter (@LouSmyrlis) for daily coverage.

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