Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 to provide for the security of marine transportation now before us meets an obvious need. Our party is in agreement with the principle of this bill and approves the enforcement procedure. Rather than waste my colleagues' time, I will limit myself to recalling briefly the bill's objectives, its highlights and its reception by the stakeholders. Unlike my predecessor, I will leave considerations not directly related to the bill aside.
First, the objectives. The bill's objective is to introduce in the marine sector the same security principles found in the air and rail transportation sectors. Although these sectors have security measures regarding boarding, there are none in the case of marine transportation. The government cannot, therefore, intervene in emergency situations, such as when a vessel is threatened by unlawful activities or poses a risk to a port facility.
The legislation focuses primarily on transportation of passengers. Screening measures will be instituted in ports to ensure that weapons and other explosives are not brought on board. This measure is aimed at preventing hijacking, sabotage and hostage-taking.
We all remember the tragedy of the Achille Lauro about ten years ago-and we are only now considering action. A group of Palestinian terrorists took over a Greek ship by force and took the passengers and crew hostage. Since then, the International Maritime Organization has established security standards to be observed in port facilities and on vessels. These standards, which were first developed in 1986, were ratified by Canada in 1993. The purpose of the bill before us is to implement these security measures.
It should be noted that 85 per cent of passengers on cruise ships are Americans and that the American government carries out surveillance of port security measures worldwide. In certain cases, it may recommend that American citizens avoid certain ports. Guaranteeing security in our ports is a way of protecting our tourist industry.
The bill puts in place the legislative framework and authorizes the minister to make regulations to deny certain vessels access to Canadian waters and re-direct vessels posing security concerns to a secure place. For example, a vessel subjected to a bomb threat would be directed to proceed to a place where it poses less of a security threat to persons, vessels and marine facilities, before undergoing authorized screening by Canadian officers.
The bill makes it illegal for passengers or crew to have on board weapons or materials such as explosives that could be used as weapons. It will apply to all vessels in Canada, whether registered in Canada or not, and shipowners and port authorities will be required to install a security system including sensor equipment like the ones used in airports. The legislation will also apply to port facilities and drilling rigs. Naturally, vessels and facilities under National Defence authority will be exempted.
The legislation will have teeth: in the case of a corporation, the maximum fine will be $200,000. I might add that the bill was well received by the community. It met with the full approval of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority and the Canada Ports Corporation.
For these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-38.