September 30, 2014
Check against delivery
Thank you for inviting me to join you today.
As a former president and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, I value the opportunity to connect with people in the marine transportation community and talk about issues affecting their work.
In my current role as Minister of Transport, I spend a lot of time travelling across the country speaking to stakeholders as well as average Canadians about their priorities and how government can better serve them.
My department also annually surveys ferry operators in Canada, to get an accurate picture of the industry and its role in our economy.
And of course I’m here today to both tell you what I’ve been doing and to hear your concerns.
I grew up by the sea on Cape Breton Island. And anyone who comes from near a coast or waterway knows the important role that ferries play in the life and the economies of communities in these regions.
Ferries transport travellers – both local and visiting – and they move vehicles and goods throughout these regions.
Of course, Transport Canada is quite immersed in ferry transportation in Atlantic Canada.
We own four vessels and six terminals that are leased to private operators and last year, we announced the government’s intention to replace the MV Princess of Acadia.
This past summer, I was pleased to announce that our government had renewed its commitment to continue operation of the ferry services between:
While we are quite open about our aim to promote privately-operated ferry services across this country, we realize the need for government support in some regions. This continued investment will ensure safe, reliable and efficient operation of these ferry services.
But our focus on ferry services goes well beyond the Atlantic region. We need safe and efficient transportation in all of Canada and we are fortunate to have ferry services in many regions across the country.
In fact, when I was CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, I dealt with those of you who manage and operate services in that region.
Supporting our ferry services is one way to support prosperity across this great nation.
The numerous services that operate across Canada move both people and goods, connecting people while also supporting local economies.
In fact, since 2006, the federal government has invested more than 1.5 billion dollars to support its ferry service commitments in some regions of this country.
This investment not only helps ferries to serve transport, trade and tourism. It supports various initiatives to maintain the safety, security and efficiency of marine transportation.
And as some of you already know, last year, Prime Minister Harper announced a major project not far from where we are today: the redesign of the Lévis ferry sector. This project will favour the development of parks and green spaces and will transform this urban sector into an open and dynamic area.
As part of the project, we will also redesign the Paquet and de l’Esplanade wharves and transform Lévis’ intermodal terminal – the former maritime station – into a welcome area and interpretation centre.
One way we work to keep track of ferry operations and maintain their safety is through regulations that apply to all vessels in Canada.
For example, we are modernizing our Vessel Fire Safety Regulations to reduce the risk of fires or explosions on vessels.
We also plan to modernize our life saving and inspection regulations to better match recognized international standards.
And we are amending our Vessel Registry Fees, Vessel Registration and Tonnage Regulations.
As well, the Regulations Amending the Marine Transportation Security Regulationsare now in effect. They require that all vessel personnel must hold a certificate of proficiency.
They also further harmonize our marine security regulations with those in the United States, address outstanding regulatory gaps contained in existing regulations and reduce administrative burdens for Canadian-flagged vessels travelling in this country.
But despite these initiatives, there are many other challenging factors we must address to regulate ferry operation in Canada.
For example, we must maintain high standards for how people – especially those with mobility concerns – can exit a vessel in an emergency.
We must work to minimize the environmental impact that vessels have on the marine environments in which they travel.
And we must recognize the challenges that small-scale ferry operators face in terms of operating costs and record management.
Our regulation of marine transportation aims to maintain its safety and efficiency, but also to benefit the regional transport, trade and tourism industries that rely on it.
But safety is particularly important to me, so I want to focus on it for a few minutes.
As Minister, safety is not only one of my priorities, it is my top priority. And our government is committed to doing everything we can to make all modes of transportation safer in Canada.
We do so because we must support and protect Canadian families, communities and the people who work in transportation.
But we also do so because we must be able to maintain our reputation as a country with safe, reliable and professional transportation.
One way Transport Canada is working to strengthen safety in marine transportation, is through a Concentrated Inspection Campaign.
The 2014 campaign is a pilot that will help form the future of our inspection program.
Its focus is to assess and ensure the presence of proper lifesaving and firefighting equipment and practices on medium and small passenger vessels.
It is addressing areas of marine transportation where inspectors have found a high number of vessels that are not complying with our standards or where new requirements have recently entered into force.
Our aim is not simply to have a series of checklists for inspectors assessing marine vessels. Rather, we are working to develop a consistent approach that applies to all vessels across Canada.
Our ultimate goal is for vessel owners to have the right equipment and practices in place to maintain safety.
And we want them to understand the need to carry out boat and fire drills, passenger counts, and to address any concerns regarding passengers with special needs.
To strengthen our approach to this, Transport Canada has consulted with the Transportation Safety Board.
We are doing so to ensure concerns raised by TSB investigations regarding passenger vessels are incorporated into our inspections.
I should also note our Statutory Inspection Program, which allows classification societies to enter into formal agreements with Transport Canada to complete inspection and certification functions on our behalf.
There are currently four such suppliers and we are working to allow more.
By using these groups to carry out inspection and certification services, we are working to streamline our certification program, so it can best focus its resources on the regions and marine vessels that pose the greatest risk.
I think we can all understand the need to maintain a strong standard of safety on all marine vessels.
As the regulator, we have introduced a world-class tanker safety system. An important component of that system was the establishment of an Incident Command System in the Canadian Coast Guard.
With its clear roles, responsibilities and decision making hierarchies, the Coast Guard is able to respond faster to any incidents and positively contribute to the safety of all mariners and vessels, not just tankers.
We are removing the liability limit of the Ship-Source Oil pollution fund to ensure that polluters bear 100% of the costs of cleanup and we have expanded the National Aerial Surveillance Program flight hours by 55% to keep a watchful eye on tankers moving through Canadian waters.
We want to focus not solely on what happens after a spill or accident but on how we can entrench policies and habits that prevent them. We ensure every single foreign tanker entering Canadian water is thoroughly protected. We are in the process of developing a state-of-the-art navigation system to ensure accident prevention.
I hope that vessel operators can understand the attention we must pay to items such as lifesaving and fire safety equipment.
Our government understands the importance of ferry services and the need for our involvement in their operations.
This will allow us to help maintain the ferry industry’s numerous contributions to Canada.
And it will help the entire marine transportation sector to support growth, create jobs and promote prosperity, both here and across our country.
A safe and efficient marine transportation sector – including the ferry vessels – will help us to achieve these goals.
So I commend all of you for your efforts to uphold the high standards of the ferry industry in Canada.
Thank you again for inviting me.
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