Industry, government and Indigenous experts from Canada and the United States are gathering next week in Vancouver to share knowledge about spill prevention and response.

Many presenters at the Clean Pacific conference (June 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency) explore topics directly related to protecting the shared BC-Washington marine environment, including binational collaboration. Topics related to pipelines, the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska are also scheduled. Innovations in spill recovery technology will be explored via both the conference program and the exhibitor’s floor. A representative of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change will discuss implementation of the province’s new spill preparedness, response and recovery regulation.

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the Transport Canada-certified spill responder for the BC coast, has organized a water demonstration including its new class of Coastal Response Vessels.

Representatives of ship operators in BC and Washington state share the June 19 keynote session: The Importance of Binational Collaboration in Transboundary Waters, an Industry Perspective. The speakers are President of the Chamber of Shipping of BC and former Royal Canadian Navy Commander Robert Lewis-Manning and former US Coast Guard Captain Michael Moore, Vice President of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

“It’s a fairly small ecosystem to be quite honest,” Lewis-Manning observed in a recent interview. “Folks know of each other but don’t always have the opportunity to be with each other in a focused discussion.

“I’m always amazed at how close your neighbour is in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not some conceptual framework, but rather a network of people interacting and communicating day to day — and across lines, public and private sector, industry, non-government organizations, communities.

“So borders certainly melt away pretty quickly.”

Lewis-Manning’s Navy duties included everything from working with non-government organizations in Afghanistan to leading and coordinating coastal surveillance, pollution monitoring and security in Western Canada. He subsequently helped Canadian commercial ship owners navigate the unique regulatory and political complexities of the Great Lakes as President of the Canadian Shipowners Association.

Lewis-Manning stressed the importance of binational planning and operational coordination — and the role that federal governments can play in that process.

“We really do want to talk about the need for an enhanced binational, federal approach in everything related to risk management and marine protection,” he said.

“You can have the best of regulations and capabilities, but at the end of the day, the relationships are equally important. Bringing together regulators and the public and putting a face and a name to those relationships — I think that’s a really important aspect of protecting and managing our ecosystem. These people are living and working in the communities we are discussing at this conference.”

Lewis-Manning pointed to a May 2019 announcement by Fisheries and Oceans Canada that four Canadian government agencies and five industry organizations have signed a five-year Conservation Agreement benefiting southern resident killer whales. The agreement commits large commercial vessels in Pacific waters, notably those calling at the Port of Vancouver, to reduce acoustic and physical disturbances.

“It’s the first one of its kind in Canada for an aquatic species. I like to turn to that as an example of the innovation that’s happening,” Lewis-Manning said.

“I think it’s really important to highlight the progress that’s made in the region. It is significant and it’s providing leadership for other initiatives in Canada. In the Pacific Northwest, we’re at the leading edge of conservation initiatives, habitat restoration and protection, spill prevention and response.”