Evidence of meeting #89 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was boats.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Patrick White  Founder and Executive Director, Project Naval Distinction
Vice-Admiral  Retired) Denis Rouleau (As an Individual
Sara Anghel  President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada
Patricia Heintzman  Mayor, District of Squamish
Anne Legars  Administrator, Office of the Administrator of the Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund
Andrew Kendrick  Vice-President, Operations, Vard Marine Inc.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Part of the problem we're seeing, and I think particularly on the west coast—and perhaps my colleague Ms. Malcolmson will address it a little bit more—is that the west coast seems to have a lot more recreational vessels that are left abandoned, whereas on the east coast, it's bigger, container ship-type things that we're dealing with.

I'm happy to hear that you're onside with the legislation and that you think it's a good step forward. Thank you for being here today.

I'll go to Mr. White. Thank you so much for your presentation, and for your hard work on this issue. Of course, thanks also to Captain Bender for everything he has done. I guess, maybe, both of you can answer this question for me.

I support what you're trying to do. I totally understand the need to protect these ships that sank during war, and the graves. I question that this would be the right place to have that, and if this legislation is where that should be. Can you tell me why you think this legislation is an appropriate place to put what you're asking for?

3:55 p.m.

Founder and Executive Director, Project Naval Distinction

Patrick White

When I look at subsection 163(2) of the Canada Shipping Act—and this came from a conversation with Captain Bender—there is a provision that allows the minister to designate vessels as having heritage status. The problem with this is that, federally, there is no actual protection for heritage status. It's not a legal protection; it's a legal designation. According to Parks Canada's own website, it's a ceremonial thing. It provides either a significance.... It's a way of honouring either a sunken wreck or, as you were talking about, the ships that were discovered up in the Arctic, for example, things like that, as part of our history. What makes this different, particularly with ocean war graves, is that obviously we're talking about tombs. We're talking about remains still being on board.

The Canada Shipping Act is one of the primary vehicles under which that kind of protection could be granted now. It might be possible to amend the Canada Shipping Act to insert different punishments or protections under subsection 163(2) from what exist now. I'll be very honest. I don't profess to be an expert on a lot of this. What we saw, and from what Captain Bender had researched, was that there does exist a gap.

What I had thought to propose, in terms of this bill and an issue dealing with the Canada Shipping Act, was that if there were any way we could get protections through Parliament sooner, rather than drafting a whole new bill, etc., perhaps this could be the vehicle to do it. I'll fully admit, in our position, there might be a better vehicle, but echoing what I'm sure the admiral has said, there's a real sense of urgency. Perhaps we can use it collectively, as a Parliament, both sides asking, “What avenues exist?” and “How quickly can we bring in protection?”

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

As I've said, I totally agree with what you're saying.

I am concerned that we would have war graves protected under something called “abandoned, dilapidated, and wrecked vessels”. I think there's an optics problem there that we may want to avoid. To that point, though, I do believe that what you're asking for is significant and needed.

What does it mean to have it protected? Is it not illegal right now to...?

3:55 p.m.

VAdm (Ret'd) Denis Rouleau

Right now the only protection.... In fact, they don't have protection. The international laws of the sea will provide jurisdiction. They will not provide jurisdiction enforcement. That is through protection, which is why the British brought this act, the Protection of Military Remains Act. In fact, they even extended this domestic law to their warships that were sunk in international waters. During the war with Japan, they had warships that sank off Malaysia. They consider those ships protected under this special act that they've put in place in the U.K.

As I mentioned before, even the Germans asked for the U-boats to be protected from salvaging or diving. So did the Danish—some of their merchant ships were sunk during the war—under that same act. There are punitive consequences.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much. I'm sorry, your time is up.

Ms. Malcolmson.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair.

With thanks to all three of the witnesses, I'm going to focus my questions on the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

I was elected in British Columbia. It's actually perfect that you're here today, because this afternoon we have another witness, from Vard Marine, who was commissioned by Transport Canada to do a picture of both the abandoned vessel problem and also our capacity to respond to it from a ship breaking and recycling point of view.

This is how they characterized what they heard from marinas in B.C. I'm just going to read it out for the record, but I'm curious whether it resonates with what you've heard from your membership. It says:

Vessel abandonment is clearly perceived to be a significant issue in the region, with numerous respondents reporting problems ranging from illegal mooring adjacent to their facilities, to abandoned or sunken vessels inside their facilities which cannot be dealt with easily due to regulatory and risk uncertainty, and even incidents of vessels leaking fuel, sewage, or even being set ablaze in their harbour as a means to scuttle them quickly.

It goes on to say:

All the stakeholders acknowledged that proper disposal of vessels is an issue.

One marina reports an estimated 16 vessels sunk deliberately or after being abandoned on the sea floor within the bounds of their marina.

I'm seeing a nod, so you're hearing this from your membership also.

4 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

Definitely—on the west coast, predominantly. We've known that's where the concentration of the problem is, and that's why we've taken it nationally, to make sure it gets addressed.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

From my local government experience, but then also as an MP, I brought legislation forward to try to deal with the backlog and some of the recycling pieces. Unfortunately, that bill was blocked by the government last year, so I'm trying to find ways to bring some of its teachings from coastal communities into this bill. A whole bunch of marinas and harbour authorities from across the country endorsed my bill.

One of the pieces of it was borrowing the vessel turn-in program that Oregon and Washington pioneered as long as 10 years ago. That was one way they had to get rid of the backlog. It's equivalent to a “cash for clunkers” program like we've had in a bunch of our regions. Especially, it was recognized that you got a boat amnesty: within a certain number of years you can turn in your boat, in co-operation with your local government.

Is that something you've been hearing from your membership as a model, maybe, that some of the marinas on the U.S. side have had experience with and that has helped them deal with the backlog of old pleasure craft?

4 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

I can't say we've had a detailed discussion on exactly that, cash for clunkers, but it just came up recently. I'm actually working on a paper to provide to our U.S. counterparts, so that the industry has a look at this internally in terms of what we can do to step up as an industry. That's definitely one of the options to consider. It would be a fantastic model for Canada to look at, and the industry would welcome the opportunity to step up, assist, and see if we can get that started.

There are lots of other opportunities. In B.C., maybe something needs to be done more quickly. To get started, we maybe could focus pilot projects on where the problem is, and then work our way out. Definitely there are a lot of great examples from the U.S. and Europe that we should put together and see what works for us.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

We have a new provincial government in British Columbia. Mid-campaign, they promised that if the feds wanted to work with them on it, they would be interested in piloting some of those recycling and product stewardship pieces. There's a good prospect that we might get some co-operation there.

You mentioned recycling examples from other countries that your association was looking at. Is that research you've compiled already that you'd be able to share with this committee now?

4 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

Absolutely, we can get that for you. It's a lot of information.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

We're fast readers. Thank you.

You mentioned that your association had applied to the small harbours abandoned vessels removal program. Can you tell us about your experience, whether you received funding, and how you found the application process?

4 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

It hasn't been announced yet. I understand that because I haven't heard one way or the other. It's a Transport Canada program that was announced last summer. We applied for it over the summer. I think September 15 was the deadline, so we're just waiting.

The application process was okay. There were no issues. Perhaps, because the issue is so technical, we want to step up and take the initiative to work proactively on the matter. It felt a bit daunting because we aren't technical experts, but we are here to represent the industry. Maybe we'll need some assistance, if it is approved, to look more closely at the technical aspects of how it will work. It was a relatively easy process, though.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

We had the transport minister at committee on Monday, who said that only seven boats had been applied for. I think four as assessments and three for removals. In retrospect, if you do have feedback for all of us on how we might streamline that process, we'd like to get a higher level of participation, so that we can get more of that backlog removed.

Thanks for your work.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

Go ahead, Mr. Hardie.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our witnesses here today.

Vice-Admiral Rouleau or Mr. White, this is for either one of you. To your knowledge, are any of the wartime wrecks hazards to navigation or are they all too deep?

4:05 p.m.

VAdm (Ret'd) Denis Rouleau

To our knowledge, they are not hazards to navigation at all.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

In the legislation, it would appear that being designated as some sort of historical site or whatever, the only thing that this legislation would do is to prevent it from being taken out and taken away. However, using whatever language it uses, the legislation presupposes that somewhere somebody would designate it as a historical artifact of some sort. We can look into that and find out if that process actually exists. Although, the experience with the Erebus and the Terror up in the far north suggested that it was Parks Canada. Have you spoken to Parks Canada about your effort?

4:05 p.m.

VAdm (Ret'd) Denis Rouleau

Since he started in 2013, Captain Bender has had exchanges with Parks Canada, Environment, National Defence, every possible.... In many cases, he's been told that “we're looking into it”. At one point, there were cross-discussions taking place, but no responses have been received so far. He's still trying to find an avenue to get the Canadian warships in Canadian territorial waters, which is one issue.

Right now, the one where he was stopped was the three ships that are within British territorial waters.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Anghel, do you have any sense as to the average age of the pleasure boats that are abandoned?

4:05 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

I do not.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

What do we know about the component pieces that were in those older vessels and how well did they maintain their integrity, or were they splattering debris all over the place, which, of course, creates one of the reasons why we'd want to clean them up? Can you make any sense from records on that?

4:05 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

Boat building turned away from wood in the fifties and sixties, I guess. If I could make a really big guess, we're looking at vessels that are probably from 1960 to 1980 that might be part of the problem today. We don't have the capacity to look into it at this point, as they're not coming to us to say what's abandoned. Again, I think it would require a study to look at what components there were from that time that might be hazardous.

What I know is that the engine is now built to high standards over the last several years, but what it was in the fifties and sixties and what spillage there is, I really don't know. I could look into it, but I don't know.

February 7th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

It would be worth knowing. I'm sure that some of your manufacturers have records that go back far enough, so that we'd know what they were actually using for materials.

Let's fast-forward to the present and talk about the materials that are going into boats now. What design attributes will there be to ensure that if it's wrecked, it's not going to contaminate that area with debris, particularly styrofoam, which tends to pop up and get really ugly along the beaches. Of course, it's not very good for the marine life either.

Do the more modern ingredients going into pleasure craft give us a sense that things are going to be better protected, even if the worst happens?

4:05 p.m.

President, National Marine Manufacturers Association Canada

Sara Anghel

If they are a member of our association, though I can't speak for those that are not, any boat that is sold in Canada or the U.S. has to go through a rigorous certification program, which goes above and beyond the U.S. Coast Guard standards and even some of TP1332 construction standards for Canada. For example, on the styrofoam in particular, everything is in a sealed airtight compartment, so there is no way for that to leach out. It's completely sealed. The engines are completely sealed and very well done.

I would be more than happy to provide some of the more technical engineering aspects of what we're looking at when we're certifying a boat. We could also look at the provisions of the Transport Canada Construction Standards, which must be met to be compliant for a boat to be used here.