Frequently Asked Questions

The information below is meant to provide Canadians with general information about the Fund.

The Fund is the Canadian fund established for the purpose of ensuring the payment of claims for marine oil pollution that originates from ships. The system is designed to cover the risk of non-payment by the shipowner who is responsible for pollution. It also covers claims for damage and clean-up costs where the identity of the ship that caused the discharge of oil cannot be established, i.e., a mystery spill. Finally, as fund of first recourse at the election of the claimant, the Fund provides an alternative access to justice: its Administrator receives, assesses and settles claims, then goes against the shipowner for recovery of the amount paid.

As provided by legislation, any person in Canada including private corporations, municipalities, provinces or the Crown, may file a claim with the Administrator respecting loss, damage, costs and expenses resulting from ship-source oil pollution. After the Administrator investigates and pays a claim, he or she has a duty to take all reasonable measures to recover from the owner of the ship, or any other applicable source, the compensation paid to claimants from the Fund.

No. For example, if a community suffers an economic downturn as a direct result of a ship-source oil spill, any local businesses that can demonstrate an economic loss caused by the spill will be eligible for compensation.

The Administrator’s interpretation of economic loss covers cultural and ceremonial uses, to the extent that such usage is negatively affected by a ship-source oil pollution incident. In such cases, compensation would extend to the cost of reasonable replacement alternatives. If such a claim were made, the Administrator would almost certainly seek expert assistance during the assessment process in order to better understand and quantify the loss in question.

Our Claims manuals are easy to use and will help you through the process. Most claimants are able to submit their claims without the need for professional help. However, with large or complex claims, it may be helpful to obtain the advice or assistance of a lawyer or other professional. If this assistance is reasonably necessary, it may be eligible for compensation.

The Fund succeeded the Maritime Pollution Claims Fund (MPCF) established in 1973. The money in the original MPCF – collected by levy on oil imported into or shipped from a place in Canada from 1972 to 1976 – was transferred to the new Fund in 1989, a special account established in the accounts of Canada to which interest is credited monthly by the Minister of Finance.

During the year 2020-2021, the Administrator paid out $532,421 for Canadian claims.

The Administrator received 27 claims for an aggregate value of $2,082,447.

The average value per claim was $77,127. However, more than half of the claims received were for amounts less than $35,000. The highest claim received in 2020-2021 was for $396,954. Please refer to Table 1 of the Annual Report, for the spread of the 27 claims received in 2020-2021.

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) was the claimant in the majority of cases (25 out of 27); while one claim was from a private business and one by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Please refer to Table 2 of the Annual Report, Spread of the 27 claims received in 2020-2021, by claimants.

On average, claimants were offered 42% of the claim amount submitted. Table 6 of the Annual Report compares the percentage of amount paid (including interest) vs claimed.

Section 116 of the Marine Liability Act provides that claimants are entitled to interest on their claim from the day their damage occurred. The interest is calculated and paid at the time of the payment by the Administrator and on the basis of the amount of the offer made by the Administrator and accepted by the claimant. Due to the compounded delays of filing the claim, assessing it and agreeing to the offer, interest may accrue over a period of several years.

The Canadian Incident Portfolio Map found at pg.8 of the Annual Report shows the geographical spread of the Administrator’s active files in 2020-2021. British Columbia is the province where the Administrator has the highest number of active files, followed by Newfoundland & Labrador.

In 2020-2021, 39% of the offer letters were issued by the Administrator’s Office within three months of receiving the claim, and 78% were sent within six months. However, two offers were sent more than one year after receiving the claims. These were for large and/or complex claims, involving further investigation and back and forth discussions between the claimant and the Administrator’s Office. Note that statutory interest accrues in favour of the claimant during the claim assessment process. (Table 5 of the Annual Report indicates the timelines for assessment of the claims.)

The balance in the Fund was approximately $409 million.

Since December 13, 2018, the Fund no longer has any per-occurrence limit of liability.

First of all, no levy has been imposed for the Fund and its predecessor MPCF since 1976. However, in accordance with the Marine Liability Act, the Minister of Transport had statutory power to impose a levy of 55.05 cents per metric tonne of contributing oil during the fiscal year 2021-2022. The levy is indexed annually to the consumer price index and has been adjusted to 56.32 cents per metric tonne as of April 1, 2022.

The Conventions provide for three cumulative layers of liability in case of tanker spills in the waters of a state party to the convention:

  • the 1992 CLC provides for the shipowner’s mandatory insurance up to its limit of liability;
  • the 1992 IOPC Fund Convention provides for up to approximately $358 million per incident;
  • the 2003 Supplementary Fund provides for an additional layer of compensation of over $1 billion (approximately).

Together, these three layers of indemnification provided by the international conventions provide for approximately $1.4B per tanker spill incident involving persistent oil. It should be noted that the exact amount of the various layers of indemnification provided for by the Conventions, depend on the exchange rate in effect at the time of the incident.

The IOPC did not require any levies for 2021.The activities of the IOPC are summarized in Section 1.4 (pg. 20-22) of the Administrator’s 2020-2021 Annual Report.

Over $57.5M million ($57,665,925).

$11,791,848 was paid for costs and expenses incurred respecting the Rio Orinoco, which grounded on Anticosti Island, October 16, 1990.

The International Funds are available only to spills of persistent oil from sea-going tankers. The Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund is unique in that it not only covers sea-going tankers, but it is intended to pay claims regarding oil incidents from all classes of ships such as, general cargo vessels, cruise ships, ferries, tug or barges, fishing vessels or pleasure craft. The Fund covers any type of oil incident from ship-source, for both persistent and non-persistent oil. In addition, the Fund also applies to so-called mystery spills, where the identity of the ship that caused the discharge cannot be established.

Canada is party to the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (Bunkers Convention). The implementation of the international bunker rules in Canada requires that all ships having a gross tonnage greater than 1,000 must maintain insurance or other financial security that allows claimants for oil pollution caused by such ships to go directly against the insurer or other person providing financial security. This feature is of some significance in non-tanker spills handled by the Fund.

Provided a person in Canada suffered damages as a result of ship-source oil pollution, that person would have every right to submit a claim directly to the Administrator. Nevertheless, when a claimant has a statutory right of direct action against an insurer (as in cases covered by the Nairobi Convention), the Administrator checks with claimants to see if they wish to settle directly with the insurer. Where claimants decide to go directly to an insurer, the Administrator keeps the claim file in abeyance, only proceeding with assessment if the claimant does not reach a satisfactory settlement with the insurer.

In 2020-2021, the Administrator recovered a total of $3,190 for two files. An additional $10,812 was collected pursuant to a 2019-20 settlement agreement. Some 81 files were at various stages of recourse action during the year, including 24 court cases. (ref. Annual Report pp.15-19).

Under Fund 3.0, new responsibilities have been given to the senior counsel who leads the Fund’s in-house legal unit and manages its portfolio of incident files. This allows the Administrator to focus more on strategic orientations, policies and guidelines, while remaining the ultimate decision maker. Fund 3.0 is also an effort to develop an in-house legal team to directly represent the Administrator in litigation matters. This effort is particularly significant for recovery actions. The reduced cost of using an in-house legal team to institute and pursue legal proceedings, as compared to relying exclusively on external counsel paid per hour, increases the scope of matters in which efforts can be reasonably pursued to recover from parties responsible for ship-source oil pollution.