New legislation for abandoned and derelict vessels will affect boat owners

Published: June 12, 2019

abandoned-boat Photo by Andy Adams

Canada’s new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act will be coming into force on July 30th, 2019 and all boat owners will be affected. Some might say, it’s about time.

From coast to coast there are derelict boats abandoned in fields, storage yards, backyards and unfortunately, sometimes in the water. Ships and commercial vessels were the original focus, but the new Act encompasses smaller pleasure craft as well.

The Act is a key measure to protect Canada’s waterways and marine ecosystem, under the Government of Canada’s $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. The Act governs wrecked, abandoned, and hazardous vessels (including small boats and commercial vessels) and the Act will strengthen requirements for vessel owner responsibility and liability including irresponsible vessel management and prohibition of vessel abandonment.

The Act will make it illegal for vessel owners and operators to:

  • Abandon their unwanted vessel.
  • Cause their vessel to become a wreck because they fail to maintain it.
  • Sink, strand or ground their vessel on purpose.
  • Without being authorized, leave their vessel in poor condition in the same area (within a radius of three nautical miles) for more than 60 days.
  • Leave their vessel adrift for more than 48 hours without taking measures to secure it.

Apart from being an eyesore, abandoned boats and wrecks pose an environmental problem because old battery acids, oil and fuel can pollute the ground or the water, and they are a public safety problem on the ground if someone trespasses onto a boat that could topple over or collapse. In the water, a wrecked or abandoned boat is an environmental problem and could be a hazard to navigation. Especially at night, boaters may not see an abandoned vessel in time to avoid a crash.

For cottagers and pleasure craft owners, the main thing is that the new Act more clearly lays out your responsibilities for maintaining your boat in safe operating condition and holds owners accountable for the end of life disposal. Usually your local marina can assist with disposal.

At present, there is no recycling or disposal fee being added to the boat registration costs, or to the price of a new boat, the way recycling fees are now added to new vehicles, or to items like new car tires. That could change in the future of course.

For more information, visit the Transport Canada website. The legislation is available on the Department of Justice website. 

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