Bill C-33: Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act

marine transportation

The Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, introduced Bill C-33 to the House of Commons for a First Reading on November 17, 2022. Bill C-33 is the Ministry of Transport’s response to the recent supply chain challenges that have impacted Canadians.1 The bill proposes amendments to federal legislation related to ports, railways, and the transportation of dangerous goods. The proposed amendments would boost the powers of the federal transport minister, increase existing administrative monetary penalties (“AMPs”), and create a new AMP regime to enforce safe transportation of dangerous goods across Canada.2 In doing so, the Canadian Government aims to “remove systemic barriers to ameliorate supply chain problems, and amend existing federal laws to modernize how Canada’s marine and railway transportation systems operate.”3

The bill would impact the maritime industry by amending the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Canada Maritime Act. The proposed amendments are aimed to:

  1. expand Canada Port Authorities’ mandate over traffic management;
  2. position Canada’s ports as strategic hubs that support national supply chain performance and effectively manage investment decisions for sustainable growth; and
  3. improve the government’s insight into ports and their operations.4

Amendments to the Marine Transportation Security Act

Bill C-33 would amend the Marine Transportation Security Act to:

  1. allow the Minister of Transport to enter into agreements with organizations in respect of the administration and enforcement of the Act;
  2. set out regulating powers respecting threats and risks to the health of persons involved in the marine transportation system, the sharing of information, and the establishment of vessel exclusion zones;
  3. authorize the Minister to make interim orders and give emergency directions;
  4. authorize the Minister, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a vessel is a threat, to direct that vessel to a specified place or to remain outside of a specified area;
  5. create new offences or increase the penalties for offences such as failing to carry out security measures, operating a vessel in a way that contravenes a direction, and making false or misleading statements to a screening officer; and
  6. extend the application of certain offences and the AMP regime.5

Amendments to the Canada Marine Act

Bill C-33 would amend the Canada Marine Act to:

  1. make port authorities responsible for managing traffic and create regulatory authorities respecting fees as well as information and data sharing;
  2. grant the Transport Minister the authority to order measures be taken to prevent imminent harm to national security, national economic security, or competition; and
  3. require port authorities to establish advisory committees, require periodic assessments of port authorities’ governance practices, and set out new requirements respecting plans and reports relating to climate change.6

Impact on Supply Chain

Transport Canada launched the Ports Modernization Review in 2018 to help ensure that our ports system has the governance structure and tools needed to adapt to an increasingly complex operating environment.7 Any resulting actions were to be in support of Canada’s economic recovery and continued economic development. The Government of Canada also issued a Policy Statement on Port Investment that laid out how it intends to modernize the review of investments and adapt its “public interest test” to new international and domestic market contexts.8 The Government of Canada claims that Bill C-33 addresses many of these policy initiatives.

a) Broadened Scope for Reviewing Port Investments

The proposed legislation will allow the Minister of Transport and the Commissioner of Competition to review a greater scope of transactions. This will be accomplished by reducing the dollar value threshold for which a transaction becomes ‘notifiable’ under the Canada Transportation Act from $93 million to $10 million.9

b) Improved Information to Support Decision-Making

Transport Canada proposes a regulation-making authority that would enable the Minister of Transport to collect data to be used to guide policy development. It would consult stakeholders to develop a comprehensive data strategy. Policies would be aimed to support port users, operators, and supply chain fluidity. 10

c) Increased Agility and Responsiveness to Threats

Bill C-33 would permit Transport Canada to issue a Ministerial Order under the Canada Marine Act. This would allow the Minister to take swift action in response to threats to the safety and security of Canada’s ports system or the reliability of supply chains.11

If you have any further questions on Bill C-33, please contact a member of our Transportation + Logistics Group.

[1] Government of Canada, “Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act: Minister of Transport introduces a New Bill to Make our Supply Chain Stronger”, online: Government of Canada <Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act: Minister of Transport introduces a new bill to make our supply chain stronger –>

[2] Cristin Schmitz, “Ottawa Tables Reforms to Ports, Rail and marine Transport Laws, Proposes Offences, New, Bigger AMPs”, online: The Lawyer’s Daily <Ottawa tables reforms to ports, rail and marine transport laws, proposes offences, new, bigger AMPs – The Lawyer’s Daily (>

[3] Ibid

[4] Supra note 1

[5] House of Commons of Canada, “Bill C-33: First Reading”, online: Parliament of Canada <Government Bill (House of Commons) C-33 (44-1) – First Reading – Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act – Parliament of Canada>

[6] Ibid

[7] Supra note 1

[8] Transport Canada, “Policy Statement on Port Investment”, online: Government of Canada <Policy statement on port investment –>

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

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