Regulations brought into effect in November 2010 satisfy Canada's obligation as a contracting state to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)(1) to require that certain of its passenger vessels and cargo vessels transmit long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) information to other participating states.
LRIT is a satellite-based system with global range and the information is shared only with intended recipients who are entitled to receive the information, as opposed to being broadcast generally to parties that may monitor maritime traffic. Although not a concern in Canadian waters, other types of maritime broadcast that may disclose a ship's particulars, course and cargo can be prejudicial to the ship's safety in those seas around the world in which pirates prey on vessels.
The LRIT requirements began as an International Maritime Organisation amendment to SOLAS in 2006. By including LRIT systems on designated Canadian vessels by regulation under the Canada Shipping Act 2001, Canada can now enforce the LRIT requirements against foreign vessels which are destined for a Canadian port or in Canadian waters.
The LRIT regulations are intended to increase marine safety and enhance the security of Canada's marine environment and, more generally, the global marine environment.
The transmissions will inform the Canadian government of the movement of qualified foreign cargo and passenger vessels within 1,000 nautical miles of the Canadian coast and allow Canada to monitor its own vessels internationally. The intention is that threats to vessels and the public will be mitigated and prevented with faster emergency response times and the interception of non-compliant vessels well offshore.
The LRIT regulations require certain Canadian vessels on international voyages to be equipped with LRIT systems that automatically transmit to the marine communications centre of the flag state information regarding the identity and position (ie, latitude and longitude) of the vessel, as well as the time and date that the transmission is sent. This information is also transmitted to any state where the vessel seeks entry to a port within that state or where the vessel is operating near the state's coastline.
The LRIT requirements apply to certain cargo and passenger vessels that are engaged on international voyages.
A 'cargo vessel' is defined as a vessel that is not a passenger vessel and has a gross tonnage of 300 tons or more. A 'passenger vessel' is a vessel that carries more than 12 passengers, but this does not include pleasure craft. Government vessels are also excluded.
Vessels that operate exclusively in Sea Area A1 are also excluded from the LRIT requirements, provided that they have an approved automatic identification system. Sea Area A1 is an area within the radiotelephone coverage of at least one very high frequency coast station with continuous digital selective calling (Ch 70/156.525 MHz) and may extend 30 to 40 nautical miles from the coast station.
The United States has implemented similar LRIT requirements to satisify the SOLAS obligations. However, the US Coast Guard has advised that the LRIT requirements will not be enforced against Canadian vessels, provided that the vessel is operating within 20 nautical miles of the US coastline and has an approved automatic identification system.(2)
The LRIT regulations set out certain limited circumstances in which the vessel's master may switch off the LRIT equipment or reduce the frequency of transmissions, and establish notification requirements where the master has done so.
The LRIT regulations do not set out the consequences for non-compliance, but the Department of Transport has advised that non-compliant vessels could be denied SOLAS vessel certification. Monitoring of non-compliance will be carried out through inspections conducted by Transport Canada marine safety inspectors as part of the existing regime for inspections of ship safety equipment, and LRIT equipment will be added to the safety equipment inspection checklist. Failure to have the equipment may make the vessel's owner subject to an administrative monetary penalty assessment. If such assessment is not disputed within 30 days, there is a deemed guilty plea.
The Department of Transport has stated that the costs for vessels to obtain equipment should be minimal, as the requirements under the LRIT regulations can be met by the LRIT-compatible equipment that most Canadian vessels have onboard. Only minor software changes should be required and there should be no need for new equipment to accommodate LRIT. If an entirely new LRIT-capable unit is necessary, the Department of Transport estimates that it can be acquired for under C$4,000. Any LRIT equipment must be type-approved or certified by the minister of transport
For further information on this topic please contact Shelley Chapelski or Kaitlin McKinnon at Bull, Housser & Tupper by telephone (+1 604 687 6575), fax (+1 604 641 4949) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).
(1) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 and Protocol of 1988, as amended.
(2) See www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2010/2010-11-10/html/sor-dors227-eng.html.