MPs Miller and Dykstra react to discriminatory U.S. shipping rules

July 12, 2013

OTTAWA, ON – Members of Parliament Larry Miller (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) and Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines) today challenged costly new U.S. shipping regulations that only affect Canadian Great Lakes – St. Lawrence shipping and not U.S. competitors.

Effective December this year, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) will require all ships that may discharge ballast water into the U.S. Great Lakes to treat onboard ballast water with technology, currently unavailable, if those ships have previously sailed east of approximately Anticosti Island which is near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

Ballast water is water typically retained in ship hull cavities when ships sail without cargo, required to maintain ship stability and safety. While ship ballast water is considered a potential means by which aquatic invasive species (AIS) can be transferred, since Canada and the U.S. put in place mandatory screening of ships in 2006 there have been no new AIS discovered in the Great Lakes.

Discrimination results from the fact that only Canadian ships sail east past Anticosti Island. U.S. Great Lakes ships sail entirely in the upper lakes (i.e. Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie) never traversing through the St. Lawrence Seaway and down into the St. Lawrence River. The U.S. fleet is therefore exempt from having to install this technology that when eventually developed could cost between $4-6 million per ship.

The rule is also discriminatory in that it applies to all ships built since 2009 that intend to discharge ballast water in the U.S., regardless of where those ships might sail. Since 2010 when the Harper Government removed a punitive 25% tariff on Canadian purchases of foreign built ships, the Canadian Great Lakes – St. Lawrence shipping industry has purchased over $1 billion in brand new, more efficient, environmentally friendly ships. Conversely, the U.S. Great Lakes fleet has no plans to purchase new ships, focusing instead on long-term maintenance and repair of their existing fleet.

MP Miller, who Chairs the House of Commons Transport Committee said, “Given the importance of Canadian Great Lakes shipping to my region and the entire country it’s vital we get to the bottom of what certainly appears to be a non-tariff trade barrier.”

MP Dykstra, who also represents a region heavily dependent on Canadian shipping noted, “With over $1 billion in new Canadian flagged ships coming into service, its obvious our government did the right thing by removing the foreign ship tariff.” Continuing, Dykstra added, ‘But now we need to stand up for those investments that may be under threat from discriminatory U.S. regulations.”