The Canadian government has taken an important step towards ensuring clean waters by enacting new mandatory measures for cruise ships related to the discharge of gray water and wastewater into Canadian waters.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra’s announcement aims to balance the importance of cruise ships to Canada’s domestic tourism sector with the need for responsible and environmentally friendly practices.
Cruise lines contribute over $4 billion to Canada’s economy annually and create approximately 30,000 domestic middle-class jobs each year. However, it is crucial to ensure that these benefits are delivered in a way that respects the environment.
“Cruise ships are an important part of our economy and tourism sector, but they need to be operated more sustainably to protect our waters and our environment,” said Minister Omar Alghabra. “The measures put in place today are additional tools in our toolbox to hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing to work with the industry to implement these actions and keep our shores clean for Canadians.”
The newly introduced measures concern the discharge of gray water and sewage, which pose significant risks to marine ecosystems.
Under the mandatory measures, discharges of gray water and treated wastewater are banned within three nautical miles of shore across Canada where possible to prevent pollution and protect coastal zones. In addition, the treatment of gray water and waste water before discharge between three and twelve nautical miles from the coast south of 60° N must meet more stringent standards and use treatment equipment approved in non-Arctic waters. These regulations are consistent with existing guidelines for Arctic waters under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
To ensure compliance with these measures, cruise ships are required to report compliance when operating in Canadian waters upon request.
While these measures were first introduced last year on a voluntary basis, the government has now introduced fines for non-compliance, with penalties of up to CAD$250,000 under the Canada Shipping Act of 2001. These enforcement measures will help protect Canada’s oceans and marine environment in compliance ongoing efforts to protect 25 percent of the country’s oceans by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030.
The mandatory measures also extend to cruise ships transiting Canada’s marine protected areas and marine reserves, underscoring the government’s commitment to protecting the oceans for future generations while promoting economic opportunity. With the pressing threats posed by climate change and human activities affecting marine ecosystems, implementing these measures becomes even more urgent.
The new rules come into effect immediately through an injunction, which works similarly to an ordinance but allows for quick action while the process to introduce permanent rules is underway.
It is worth noting that the measures not only meet, but often exceed, the international standards set by the International Maritime Organization and provide comparable protections to those implemented in the United States, including Alaska, California and Washington State.
Gray water, consisting of wastewater from sinks, washing machines, bathtubs, showers or dishwashing water, can contain various pollutants such as detergents, cleaning agents, nutrients, solids, cooking oils, fats and dangerous carcinogens. Wastewater, which includes wastewater from bathrooms and toilets, contains fecal coliform bacteria, ammonia, chlorine and a range of toxic pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, hydrocarbons and organochlorides.
The mandatory measures introduced for cruise ships operating in Canadian waters complement existing regulations under the Canada Shipping Act of 2001 and the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.