June 23, 2021 | Circular No. 11290

Dear Member,

Canada’s long-awaited Ballast Water Regulations were released today for immediate effect. We are pleased to note that they align with what was anticipated, with minor modifications to the list of freshwater ports, and an update to the alternative exchange zones. Below are the highlights. We will be looking more closely at the new regulations over the coming days, and will provide updated instructions to masters on complying with Canada’s Ballast Water Regulations.

International Context:

As noted in previous communications to members, these regulations primarily formalize implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention and IMO schedule in Canadian waters, which require vessels to:

  • Install a ballast water management system (BWMS) by the date specified in the IMO Ballast Water Convention (i.e., between September 2019 and September 2024) and carry a Ballast Water Management Certificate.
  • Have on board and implement a vessel-specific ballast water management plan.
  • Meet the ballast water performance/treatment standards contained in the IMO BW Convention.
  • Perform ballast water exchange until the vessel reaches its IMO compliance date for treatment, at which time, ballast water would need to be managed through the vessel’s BWMS.

Canadian Context

In addition to the above and as expected, Canada is implementing the following requirements:

  • Vessels bound to a Canadian freshwater port must conduct both a ballast water exchange (or flushing of empty ballast tanks) on the high seas AND ballast water treatment (for vessels required to have a ballast water treatment system installed).This requirement will be reviewed by 2030, based on scientific evidence for its environmental benefit and its effect on vessel operations. These requirements apply to:
    • On the West Coast:
      • Port of Kitimat and waters in or upstream of the Kitimat Arm, east of a line between Hilton Point and Steel Point;
      • Port of Stewart and waters in or upstream of the Portland Canal, north of a line between Portland Point and Ramsden Point;
      • All Fraser River ports that are:
      • -east of Tilbury Island in the main arm of the Fraser River including Anacis Island and New Westminster docking areas; and
      • -east of the eastern tip of Mitchell Island in the north arm of Fraser River;
    • On the East Coast:
      • Saguenay River ports and waters upstream of L’Anse-Creuse;
      • Lawrence River ports and waters west of the east point of Ile d’Orléans including the port of Quebec City;
      • all Canadian waters of the Great Lakes Basin; and
      • Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Lake Melville west of Rabbit Island.
  • The regulations provide updated “alternative ballast water exchange areas” in Canadian waters for a non-transoceanic voyage in the eastern arctic and on east and west coasts of Canada (i.e., when a vessel is not traveling in waters more than 200 nm from shore and 2000 in meter depth) or in the event that mid-ocean ballast water exchange cannot be performed due to safety or stability issues. These alternative ballast water exchange areas may only be used for sequential exchange.
  • Given the challenges to treat ballast water taken from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River (murky, cold fresh water), Canada deems treated ballast water taken from this region to be in compliance with the discharge standards, provided that the vessel’s ballast water treatment system is installed, operated and maintained properly. This applies only to treatment systems installed before September 8, 2024.
  • Salt water flushing of all empty ballast tanks with open ocean water, in accordance with the ballast water exchange standard, continues to be required in order to reduce the risk posed by residual ballast water and sediments.
  • Ballast water reporting forms and requirements are unchanged.

The full text of the regulations can be accessed here. Transport Canada has published a List of Canada’s designated alternative ballast water exchange area and fresh waters and is planning to publish additional operational guidance later this year.

Please contact the undersigned with questions.


Miako Ushio
Manager, Environmental and Regulatory Affairs