Derelict vessels

How does the port authority deal with derelict vessels in its jurisdiction?

Our operations center often receives reports of derelict vessels, such as partially sunken boats, spotted somewhere in local waters.

Dealing with derelict vessels is challenging and potentially very costly, and responsibility for it depends on the circumstances and location.

Vessel owners are responsible for removing derelict vessels, including the associated costs.

However, under the Canada Marine Act, we may take action to remove derelict vessels if there is any navigational or environmental safety risk.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority monitors and tracks marine objects, such as derelict vessels, within the waters of our federal jurisdiction – over 16,000 hectares of water. Our role is to 1) prevent and mitigate any environmental risks, especially in regards to the discharge of oil pollutants, 2) eliminate hazards to maintain navigational safety.

Derelict vessels in our waters are monitored by our operations centre and port authority vessels on the water, who together assess the vessel, maintain up-to-date information on the vessel and try to contact the vessel owner.

When a derelict vessel is found outside of the port’s federal jurisdiction, say on shore, for instance, we determine whether it poses risks to the environment or could slip back into the water and be a navigational hazard. In this case, we contact Transport Canada to take over the cleanup. Like us, Transport Canada does not have the authority to remove a boat unless it poses a potential or immediate hazard to navigation. Again, the owners are responsible for their property. Transport Canada can, however authorize any person, including a municipality (on a case-by-case basis), to remove abandoned boats if the owner of the wreck is unknown.

As a port authority, we have invested significant resources to prevent and mitigate risks associated with derelict vessels.

In 2013, we began the Fraser River Improvement Initiative, a two million dollar, five-year program to clean up municipal waterways and shipping channels from derelict boats and structures along the Fraser River. The program addressed a total of 151 sites with derelict vessels and structures.

We remain committed to delivering our mandate to provide a high level of safety and environmental protection.