Canada Issues Mandatory Measures and Hefty Fines for Cruise Ships

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The Canadian Minister of Transport has immediately implemented mandatory environmental measures to ensure cruise ships operate more sustainably.

The measures are the same as were introduced on a voluntary basis but now come with the addition of hefty fines if cruise ships do not comply. 

Canadian Government Takes Action for Cleaner Waters

Transport Canada announced on June 23, 2023, that all cruise ships operating in Canadian waters are now required to follow strict environmental regulations.

The regulations primarily target the management of greywater – the drainage from sinks, laundry machines, showers, and dishwashers – and sewage, the wastewater from bathrooms and toilets.

“Cruise ships are an important part of our economy and tourism sector, but they need to operate in a more sustainable manner to protect our waters and our environment,” said the Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport. 

“The measures introduced today are additional tools in our toolbox to keep them accountable. We are committed to continuing to work with industry to implement these measures, keeping our coasts clean for Canadians to enjoy.”

Cruise Ships Docked in Vancouver, Canada
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

Initially introduced on a voluntary basis last year, due to the increased emphasis on environmental preservation, non-compliance with these rules will now lead to fines up to a maximum of $250,000 under the Canada Shipping Act 2001.

The environmental measures for the cruise industry include:

  • Prohibition of greywater and treated sewage discharge within three nautical miles from shore where geographically possible across Canada.
  • Strengthening the treatment of greywater along with sewage before discharge between three and twelve nautical miles from shore south of 60°N using an approved treatment device in non-Arctic waters. This complements the existing Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act.
  • Mandatory reporting of compliance with these measures in Canadian waters upon request.

The measures are part of ongoing efforts to conserve 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. The measures exceed the international standards the International Maritime Organization sets and are comparable to restrictions already implemented by US states like Alaska, California, and Washington.

Vancouver Cruise Terminal in Canada
Photo Credit: Shawn.ccf /

The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, further emphasized the urgency of these measures: “These measures apply to cruise ships transiting through Canada’s Marine Protected Areas and marine refuges, and making them mandatory underlines our commitment to safeguarding our oceans for future generations as we support economic opportunities.”

“With the threat of climate change and ongoing human activities impacting oceans, protecting them now has never been more urgent.” 

The Cruise Industry’s Response

The cruise industry, which contributes over $4 billion annually to the Canadian economy and supports approximately 30,000 jobs, is expected to comply with these regulations fully.

After a two-year hiatus due to pandemic-related restrictions, the industry welcomed the voluntary measures announced by Transport Canada in April 2022.

As of August 2022, 47 cruise ships visited Canada, and 46 complied fully with all the rules and reporting. Only one vessel did not comply fully due to geographic and technical limitations.

Cruise Ships in Vancouver, Canada
Photo Credit: VIDEOVISTAVIEW / Shutterstock

Now, with the mandatory measures in place, it’s more of a situation where the cruise industry maintains the measures it has already implemented. Many of the industry’s newest ships are already equipped with waste treatment plants that exceed current regulations, making the new measures easily adoptable.

One example of these ships is MSC Cruises’ newest cruise ship, MSC Euribia. Boasting state-of-the-art water and waste treatment facilities, MSC Euribia ensures wastewater is treated to surpass the standards of numerous municipal wastewater treatment systems globally. 

The technological implementations on board meet the international standards set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), even adhering to the Baltic standard.

These are some of the strictest in the world in terms of managing and regulating the discharge of ship-generated sewage.

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