Addressing wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels

Learn how we address problem vessels, including legislation, funding programs, awareness and compliance measures.

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The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act became law on July 30, 2019, and protects Canada’s waterways and marine ecosystems. This key measure under the Oceans Protection Plan brings the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 into Canadian law.

The Act lets us take measures to prevent, mitigate or eliminate the risks posed by problem vessels, including:

  • undertaking assessments on vessels that may pose hazards
  • ordering owners to take measures to address their hazardous vessel
  • holding owners responsible and liable for the costs of addressing their vessel
  • addressing hazardous vessels if the owner is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond
  • addressing problem vessels located in federal small craft harbours or on other property under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

The legislation also prohibits irresponsible vessel management, such as:

  • vessel abandonment
  • causing a vessel to become a wreck
  • leaving a vessel in poor condition (dilapidated) in the same area without consent

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 is a legal framework that holds vessel owners responsible for:

  • all costs associated with addressing a wreck
  • hazardous wrecks resulting from marine incidents
  • reporting, locating, marking and removing wrecks
  • maintaining wreck removal insurance for large vessels 300 gross tonnes or above

How we address hazardous vessels

When we first become aware of a hazardous vessel, we check to see which of our programs should address it.

Search and rescue addresses situations related to a maritime emergency. Environmental response addresses vessels that pose a pollution risk in Canadian waters. Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program addresses vessels that present a risk to navigation.

Hazardous vessels that can’t be addressed by these programs are assessed to determine if they fall under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.


Vessel owners are responsible for complying with the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act. Under the Act, owners are liable for addressing their vessel or wreck when it is hazardous or unfit for safe navigation. They must also handle all associated costs, including any remediation action taken by federal officers.

A key part of compliance is raising awareness and promoting compliance through public education. To ensure that the public is aware of their new responsibilities under the Act, we use tools such as:

  • engagement
  • media campaigns
  • community outreach

We take a graduated and risk-based approach to compliance that takes into account factors such as:

  • severity of the action
  • resulting harm
  • compliance history of the responsible party

Make sure you’re aware of your responsibilities and how to be a responsible boat owner under the new legislation.

What happens when you don’t comply

Under the Act, Coast Guard officers are able to take direct and immediate action to prevent, mitigate or eliminate the risks that hazardous vessels pose. These measures could include:

  • prosecution for regulatory offences
  • inspecting a vessel’s interior, contents and exterior
  • issuing administrative monetary penalties for non-compliance
  • directing owners to take actions to prevent, mitigate or eliminate hazards posed by their vessel

Vessel owners are liable for costs and expenses of hazard assessments as well as any measures taken by Coast Guard officials to address hazards posed by their vessels. Vessel owners may also be liable for any resulting administrative monetary penalties.

Penalties for non-compliance

For minor violations, the maximum penalty is $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for any other entity (including corporations or vessels).

For serious violations, the maximum penalty is $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for any other entity.

A regulatory offence prosecution could result in a maximum fine of $1 million and/or up to 3 years of imprisonment for an individual, or $6 million for a company or corporation.

Funding programs

There are currently 2 short-term funding programs that support eligible recipients in removing and disposing of higher priority abandoned and wrecked vessels. These programs are funded by Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan, which has made over $7 million dollars in funding available until 2022.

Vessels in federal small craft harbours

Fisheries and Oceans Canada offers the Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program. This provides funding to Harbour Authorities and other eligible recipients to remove and dispose of abandoned and wrecked vessels located in federal small craft harbours.

For questions and support, applicants can contact their regional small craft harbour office.

Vessels in all other Canadian waters

Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program provides funding to remove abandoned boats and wrecks in Canadian waters.

To qualify for funding, you must first get authorization to take possession of a boat by contacting your Navigation Protection Program regional office.