Evidence of meeting #69 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was ships.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Obermeyer  Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Pilotage Authority
Donna Spalding  Director, Administration, Cruise Lines International Association

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Excellent. Good.

This is a question along the same thread, Mr. Obermeyer. We just had the largest marine debris spill on the west coast in decades. There is no mention of ocean plastics and marine debris in the ocean protection plan. There is no mechanism to help clean up debris spills. We found that out. We know that we've increased trade with Asia by about 6% a year over the last decade, or probably couple of decades.

Are there any leadership initiatives—I know that you need to be competitive with those ports south of the border—or ways that maybe we could capture a small eco-fee on each trans-cargo shipment unit that could go back into coastal communities to mitigate the impact from marine debris from the shipping industry?

10:30 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

The shipping industry right now is under so many fees and levies, including the pilotage fees, which most people think are too high, that with one more fee, I don't know if it will be the one that breaks the camel's back, but I'm sure we will probably get push-back.

I think there are other ways to do it. There are very good associations that have membership on this coast. There is also MARPOL, the IMO regulations to prevent pollution at sea. All of these things are in place and could be followed up on. I'm not sure if an eco-fee going to the communities would greatly benefit those communities. The plastics that I see when I walk along the beaches in Haida Gwaii are not usually from ships and shipping. The plastics that I see in Haida Gwaii are a result of the tsunami in Japan.

September 26th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I don't think it's just the tsunami. I live in a coastal community, and I was born and raised on Vancouver Island. I find running shoes from containers that spilled off, and fridges, as we recently found on our beaches. They are from the shipping industry, actually. We have ghost gear, you're right, and human use, and various different things that are contributing to ocean plastics, but certainly the shipping industry does contribute to it. We do need to find a better way, because coastal communities are on the front line of this increased trade. We're all very proud of the trade, and we want to see it continue to grow, but we need to find a better way to protect marine protected areas and costal communities so that they can help contribute to cleaning up the fallout from that great success story that we have.

I'll go back to you, Donna. Given the industry's commitment to sustainability, how would the cruise ship industry be able to adapt to ensure that discharges do not affect the ecological integrity of MPAs?

10:30 a.m.

Director, Administration, Cruise Lines International Association

Donna Spalding

The discharges from cruise ships are highly regulated, from the international level right down to our own Canadian laws. In the use of technology, the cruise ships are ahead of anybody else, and have been for many years, in adopting a technology that cleans waste water to the point where it's like drinking water. Food waste is macerated. It's not mixed. Their discharge lines are not mixed. You have black water, you have grey water, and you have food waste. The rest of the discharges are highly regulated. They have significant standards, and they are managed.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you. I think I have less than a minute left here.

The last question is for you, Mr. Obermeyer. I appreciate Mr. Hardie, my colleague from British Columbia, bringing up the resident killer whales on the south coast. Would it be beneficial for the industry to look at more opportunities to do short-sea shipping, to lessen the impact in terms of noise going through the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Strait of Georgia? Is that something the industry is looking at in terms of expanding, just in terms of reducing the size of vessels that are coming through?

10:30 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

The difficulty is that there is not another port at the moment, anywhere other than Vancouver, that can handle the volume and size of vessels.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I think Port Alberni has a deep-sea port. Certainly there's a project that's being talked about there, PATH. I know that there are a lot of ideas around that, which would help lower the noise in the strait.

10:35 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

Well, from a tug size, and the noise from a tug in barge towing, I don't know for sure whether that is less than some of the very efficient new vessels that come through. I'm just not sure we have the scientific data to actually say one way or another.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you, Mr. Obermeyer.

Thank you, folks. With time dwindling, it looks like this may go over time, so I hope I get your permission to do this. We have time for two more questions, one to the Liberals and one to the Conservatives, to round out this meeting.

First of all, do I have everyone's permission to carry on with the two remaining questions? It will run a few minutes over our time.

Okay. Seeing no objections, we'll go to Mr. McDonald.

You have seven minutes, please.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Chair, I'll defer to Mr. Finnigan.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Mr. Finnigan, you have seven minutes, please.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to our witnesses for being here at such an early time of day.

I have a couple of questions. On the east coast, as you know, we have had deaths of about 12 or more right whales. I know that has affected your industry. We know that going forward this is not going to go away, due to different reasons. We have large mammals getting injured, and maybe smaller ones that we may not even know about. I guess we haven't determined exactly what the cause of death was, but we know that some of them may have collided with the larger vessels.

To Ms. Spalding, has your industry proposed any solutions, or technology, or anything that can mitigate the harming of those species?

10:35 a.m.

Director, Administration, Cruise Lines International Association

Donna Spalding

Thank you very much, Mr. Finnigan, for bringing this up.

The use of technology on cruise ships is far and away advanced from a lot of the other shipping. We have proposed to Transport Canada and DFO on both coasts the use of technologies and procedures that are already in place on the coast of Maine with regard to the right whales and in Alaska with regard to larger grey whales.

This involves apps and bridge watch, both of which watch for whales. There's also the use of hydrophones, which listen for the whales and translate that information up to a satellite and down to the ship, so that they know where the whales are and the whales can be avoided. The use of technology is the way forward in managing this resource that we all want to protect on both coasts, whether it's southern resident killer whales or the right whales on the east coast.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you.

I don't know if you have any comments, Mr. Obermeyer.

10:35 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

I do. On the west coast, with respect to the resident killer whales, we were proposing that pilots' personal portable pilotage units, which they carry, could be adapted so that if you had an array of sonobuoys, we would be able to know exactly where the various pods were located. Right now we are slowing down virtually every single ship through quite a large area, significantly adding to their time through the water and hopefully reducing the noise signature, but you don't really know whether there are any whales there at the time you are doing this.

Hopefully, if we can get this technology moving ahead, we can then differentiate and slow down when we have to slow down or else keep the speed up if there is nothing in the immediate area.

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Obviously the large mammals, and the smaller ones, do not know if they are in U.S. waters or Canadian waters. How do you find the different regulations from one area to another? As it stands now, is it much different from one country to another in terms of being able to practise your trade?

10:35 a.m.

Director, Administration, Cruise Lines International Association

Donna Spalding

On the protection of whales, whether it's the U.S. or Canada, the specific instances we're discussing are very similar. NOAA is ahead of us. They are the ones who have put some of this infrastructure into place.

On the east coast in Maine, in the right whale sanctuary, there is a system of hydrophones that tell you where the whales are. That information is bounced via satellite, not only to the ships through an app, but to NOAA. When the whales are evident, then they can say to shipping, as we do in Alaska with the grey whales, “The whales are there today, and you need to slow down. This is what's in place.” Then, as they move away, the rules are changed.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Thank you.

Do you have any comment, Mr. Obermeyer?

10:40 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

No, I would agree with that.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

With regard to dealing with the first nations on both coasts, what line of communication do you have? Do you find that your industry can certainly work within their traditions and their traditional fishing grounds? Perhaps you could elaborate on that. Both of you, I think, have talked about the first nations.

10:40 a.m.

Capt Kevin Obermeyer

I'll jump in first, then.

The Pilotage Authority and the BC Coast Pilots have been working with the coastal first nations groups for probably the last eight to ten years now. We explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It's also a bit of an education and a recruitment program. We do have very good relationships with many of the indigenous groups along the coast.

What I've found is that they are very supportive of marine pilots and what we do. We will act as a conduit. If there's a question or a concern about a particular ship in a particular area, they know who to call, and they frequently do. The relationship is sound and is working.

The only time I had some anxious moments was when the northern gateway was being considered. We had some very good debates around that issue.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Ms. Spalding, do you have anything to add?

10:40 a.m.

Director, Administration, Cruise Lines International Association

Donna Spalding

No, thank you.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Pat Finnigan Liberal Miramichi—Grand Lake, NB

Okay.

That will be all, Mr. Chair.

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Thank you.

For the final question, we have Mr. Arnold or Mr. Doherty.

Okay, Mr. Arnold, you have five minutes, please.