Dear Transport Canada

September 22, 2021

Dear Transport Canada,

Everyone is eager to get to a post-pandemic world. But with cruise ships literally on the horizon or closer, we need stronger regulations, and consistency, to keep travel from killing the ocean. I’m writing to lay out the things we’re asking as they are quite simple. We can point (literally, from our front doors) to jurisdictions where stronger regulations are already implemented and industry, shockingly, is still thriving.

Raw sewage is harmful to wildlife and humans alike. It is chock full of bacteria and viruses that are dangerous, coupled with mush that feeds toxic algae and can close beaches. We have no consistency on what is raw and what is treated. 

What Canada considers to be “treated” is 18 times more polluted than what Alaska allows. Meanwhile, Washington State doesn’t let any sewage, treated or not, get dumped in the Salish Sea, though their jurisdiction only covers half of it. Meaning ships need to hold whatever gets flushed on board until they can dump it on us. This is the part where I’d add that the ocean has no idea where Canada starts and stops. So Canada’s weak regulations don’t just do harm here, they affect the rest of the neighbourhood, too. 

The problems also extend to greywater which is greasy, soapy, and just as loaded with pollutants as raw sewage (according to the EPA study). Canada has no upper limit on what is raw or treated, despite strict limits in US jurisdiction. Canada’s regulations also don’t require treatment by most vessels in Canada because any ship built before 2013 is off the hook. Together, greywater and sewage amount to over a billion litres of pollution at pre-pandemic cruising levels off BC.  

Smokestack waste dumping from scrubbers on cargo, cruise, trankers, and bulk carrier vessels is an even more voluminous issue. Pre-pandemic cruise ship travels caused 31 out of the total 35 billion litres of this carcinogenic and acidic concoction being dumped off the coast of BC. In Puget Sound a pause was announced in August for this dumping, negotiated by the Port of Seattle with individual cruise lines. Once again, California has already disallowed their use due to the high levels of air pollution they cause — a move we support — and still ships travel there legally. Proof that cleaner fuel on board can prevent this pollution entirely. Canada has done nothing to limit or study the pollution to air and water from scrubbers. 

Canada’s regulations are indefensible, and harmful to human and ocean health alike, and now is the ideal moment to match our neighbours and give notice about updates to the whole shipping sector.  

We ask for consistency in these regulations because we know that the cruise and shipping industry can meet them and thrive. They are already doing so in Alaska, California, and in Puget Sound, all points along the same route to visit us. This isn’t a maneuver on our part to get rid of shipping or create inoperable conditions; quite the contrary! We just are asking that BC is treated as kindly as our neighbours so business can continue and we can stay healthy. Win win.


Anna Barford
Canada Shipping Campaigner