News | February 19, 2014

Increasing Monitoring Of Ships To Detect Pollution In Canada's Waters

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today announced new funding to increase the number of flights to monitor and detect pollution from ships in Canada's waters.

The National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) is one of the main pillars of the Government of Canada's Pollution Prevention Program and is the government's primary tool for detecting ship-source pollution.

The Government of Canada is now approximately doubling funding for the program, to $47.6M over the next five years. This funding allows for significantly more flight hours to detect pollution.

There has been a noticeable decline in the number of spills observed since the program was established in 1991. The surveillance fleet consists of three modernized aircraft strategically placed across the country. The information generated by Environment Canada's Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution program serves as an early warning indication for areas of potential pollution to assist the NASP crew in performing surveillance activities on Canada's coastal waters.

Evidence gathered, along with information from satellite monitoring reports, is forwarded to the appropriate government departments and international partners to investigate and enforce domestic and international laws and conventions.

This announcement is one of a number of measures that are part of the World-Class Tanker Safety System, announced in March 2013. Transport Canada will also strengthen the current requirements for pollution prevention and response at oil handling facilities, through amendments to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

Quick Facts

  • Nationally, the surveillance hours flown will increase from 2,080 to 3,750 hours.
  • On the West Coast, for the next three years, surveillance hours will be increased from 500 to 700 hours, and then to 1,200 hours in 2016/17 and beyond.
  • Aerial surveillance of tankers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Harbour has already increased, as well as surveillance in Prince Rupert and Kitimat.


"Our government has zero tolerance towards polluting Canada's marine environment. That is why we have doubled the funding for surveillance and monitoring of ships to detect pollution in Canada's waters."

"Tanker traffic has increased, and through our government's plan for Responsible Resource Development, we are ensuring the safe and reliable transport of energy resources through our waterways."

The Honourable Lisa Raitt,
Minister of Transport

Related Product

  • Backgrounder on the National Aerial Surveillance Program

Associated Link

This announcement is one of a number of measures that are part of a World-Class Tanker Safety System, as announced in March 2013


Surveillance and monitoring of ship pollution with Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program

As one of the federal departments responsible for preventing pollution from ships, Transport Canada keeps a watchful eye over ships transiting waters under Canadian jurisdiction through its National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP).

Three aircraft strategically placed across the country are staffed with highly trained professionals from both Transport Canada and Environment Canada. These aircraft monitor shipping activities while acting as a deterrent to potential polluters. The team uses sophisticated state-of-the-art remote sensing equipment to observe, analyze, record and report marine pollution and other sea-based activities. The sensors on the aircraft were specifically designed to detect oil and have proven to be very effective as spills as small as a litre of oil can be found on the ocean surface.

Environment Canada's Integrated Satellite Tracking of Pollution Program (ISTOP) is used as an early warning indication for areas of potential pollution. This satellite imagery, coupled with the technology onboard the aircraft, provides a comprehensive pollution surveillance program over all waters under Canadian jurisdiction.

In the Arctic, enforcement occurs through aerial surveillance, reports from government ships, and reporting through the long-range identification and tracking system, which automatically transmits the identities and positions of vessels to authorities. Larger ships that intend to enter Canada's northern waters must report their position under the Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations(NORDREG).

Transport Canada may recommend prosecuting marine polluters based on evidence gathered by the aircrew as part of their duties to help enforce domestic and international laws. Transport Canada investigations have led to numerous successful prosecutions against marine polluters over the years, with some cases resulting in significant financial penalties.

Nationally, the NASP flew 2,080 patrol hours in 2012-13. During these patrols, 10,134 vessels were overflown, 97 pollution sightings were detected, of which 14 were of a known source and 120,075 vessels were monitored using the Automatic Identification System. This tracking system automatically provides updates on a vessel's position and other relevant ship voyage data to marine vessel traffic operators. Its purpose is to enhance the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to identify and monitor maritime traffic approaching and operating in Canadian waters.

SOURCE: Transport Canada