Raitt talks transportation and maritime security

by MM&D staff

NANAIMO, British Columbia—Speaking at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities’ 55th Annual General Meeting and Conference, federal minister of transport Lisa Raitt reflected on the tragedy of Lac-Megantic, looked forward to safety systems improvements and spoke about upcoming changes at the country’s ports.

According to a written copy of the speech she presented in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Raitt told the audience that ensuring transportation safety is an ongoing and co-operative process.

“As you may know, two days after I was sworn in, I travelled to Lac-Megantic 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-Megantic is a sobering reminder that our work to strengthen safety in all modes of transportation is ongoing. The theme of this conference is ‘Building partnerships’ and it is very relevant to transportation and safety since it’s only by working together in partnership that we can we make Canada’s transportation system safer and more secure. I am here to talk about some of the ways we are doing this.”

On the topic of port and maritime safety, Raitt promised the government “will increase tanker inspections this year so that all foreign tankers in Canadian waters are inspected on their first visit, and again each year after that.” She also said the “Canadian Coast Guard will establish an Incident Command System to respond more effectively to incidents and integrate its operations with key partners.”

Raitt also mentioned a number of other safety initiatives including:

  • Undertaking a review of pilotage and tug escort requirements will be undertaken to see if any changes or improvements are needed due to increasing traffic levels.
  • Expanding surveillance and monitoring of ships by air through the National Aerial Surveillance Program.
  • Designating the Port of Kitimat as a public port “with all the associated safety and traffic control standards”.
  • Reviewing other ports to see if similar designations are needed.
  • Conducting 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 a spill should occur.
  • Having the Canadian Coast Guard develop options to the country’s current navigation system, in addition to installing and maintaining navigational markers.
  • Having the newly created tanker safety expert panel review current preparedness and response capacity and make recommendations on possible improvements. Captain Gordon Houston, the former president and CEO of Port Metro Vancouver, is the chair of the panel.

She added that the government will implement the Safeguarding Canada’s Seas and Skies Act, which was tabled in March. The act will require terminal facilities to submit pollution prevention plans, and streamline penalties so polluters can be fined more easily. It will also strengthen the authority of Transport Canada inspectors and remove legal barriers that would prevent response organizers from acting in an emergency.

Raitt announced that Industry Canada will be providing a $2 million loan to AXYS Technologis Inc of Sidney, British Columbia. The money will be used to help the company “develop applications that collect, analyze and display sensitive maritime data to enhance port and harbour security. Users of the applications will be able to monitor potential criminal threats in real time and will benefit from the company’s proven record of successful research and development in marine environment monitoring.”

Raitt also mentioned Canada and the US are co-operating on the development of a “joint cross-border approach to help maritime commerce recover faster after a major disruption” as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan and that Port Metro Vancouver was part of the pilot project.

She also spoke of another pilot program—this one at the Port of Prince Rupert. The port is participating in a project designed to improve the efficiency of shipping international goods by rail through Canadian ports to American markets by eliminating duplicate screening of containers as they cross the Canada-US border.