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Is Canada doing enough to prevent shipping incidents? By Dr. Richard Wiefelspuett - Subscriber Access Only

By BCShippingNews 13 September 2016

Like electricity and everything it powers, marine shipping and all it delivers is largely taken for granted in Canada — until something goes wrong.

When the power goes out in our homes, we feel an immediate impact to our way of living. Only then do we appreciate the importance of electricity and how much we are dependent on its near-constant availability.

Likewise, when a container ship is delayed with goods for export or import, or a marine incident near our coastal communities makes the headlines, we become aware of our dependence on safe and sustainable marine shipping practices — both to protect Canada’s waterways and to keep our shipping lanes open for business.

A recent report by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) identified some of the risks and potential impacts of commercial marine shipping across Canada. The good news is that Commercial Marine Shipping Accidents: Understanding the Risks in Canada confirms the consensus that Canadian shipping standards are improving, accidents are fewer, and that advanced technology and better ship design are reducing the potential for accidents.

But it’s not all clear seas ahead for Canada. The report also reveals a lack of available data and research to fully understand the types and causes of marine shipping risks, the near misses, and especially the correlation between reported incidents/accidents and actual ship movements by vessel type.

In Canada, the conversation about marine shipping safety is mainly focused on the period during and after a potential marine emergency. As a result, “response and recovery” are well addressed both from a policy and funding perspective. The public dialogue is less focused, however, on the phase before a potential marine emergency – including elements of prevention and mitigation.