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Marine Spill Response on Canada’s West Coast


Michael Lowry, Communications Manager


Western Canada Marine Response


Michael Lowry is the communication manager for WCMRC. He is a strategic communications and public relations consultant with more than 15 years’ experience in domestic and international settings across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. He has designed and developed successful communication campaigns for some of BC’s most influential organizations, including Harbour Air, Pacific Blue Cross and Columbia Power. Michael has a BA in Communications from the University of Calgary and a B.Sc. in Politics and International Relations from the London School of Economics.


Marine Spill Response on Canada’s West Coast

The Canadian spill response regime was created in 1995 to enable the shipping and oil industries to respond to their own oil spills. Built on the polluter-pays principle, the regime is based on a partnership between the federal government and industry. WCMRC is the industry funded response organization (RO) for Canada’s West Coast. It was founded in 1976 as a small response co-op called Burrard Clean Operations started by four oil companies who had refineries in Burrard Inlet, and a pipeline company that was shipping oil out of the inlet. The purpose of the co-op was to ensure there was a state of preparedness in Burrard Inlet to respond in the event of an oil spill.
In 1995, following two large spills in Alaska and the state of Washington, the Canada Shipping Act was amended to include regulations and standards to protect all navigable waters in the country. It placed restrictions on tankers and barges of 150 tonnes and greater, on all ships 400 tonnes and greater, and on oil handling facilities that receive deliveries from these vessels. When these changes came into effect, WCMRC was formed to respond to spills in all of Western Canada’s navigable waters, and Burrard Clean became a division of WCMRC.
With the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion scheduled to begin operations in 2022, WCMRC is implementing a spill response enhancement program that will see $150 million invested in new equipment and new response bases in the Salish Sea. These enhancements will cut response times dramatically and significantly increase response capabilities along B.C.’s South Coast.
The presentation will explore the history of spill response in Canada and the development of the Western Canada Marine Response Corp. on the West Coast. Participants will learn about the technology involved in response and how WCMRC identifies and protects coastal sensitivities. The presentation will also explain how WCMRC is preparing for future increases in tanker traffic as a result of the Trans Mountain pipeline.