The Value of Commercial Marine Shipping to Canada

As a maritime nation, Canada’s economy, culture, environment, and security have long been interlinked with commercial marine shipping. Critical to Canada’s historical development, marine shipping continues to be vital to international trade and the development of communities. It is often the only means by which food and essential goods reach Canada’s island, remote, and northern communities. While it is evident that marine shipping is of critical importance to Canada, its value had never been comprehensively assessed. For this reason, Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping (Clear Seas) asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to undertake an expert panel assessment on the topic.

To address the charge, the CCA assembled a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral panel of 10 experts with a range of expertise, experience, and demonstrated leadership in economics, anthropology, the marine shipping industry, and marine shipping-related public policy. The assessment was informed by both academic and grey literature, original data analysis and case studies, and a novel quantitative trade modelling exercise to help understand the role of marine shipping in the Canadian economy.

The Value of Commercial Marine Shipping to Canada is a comprehensive, high-quality, independent study that examines the broad impacts of marine shipping to Canada, addressing national, regional, and local issues. It is the first of its kind to examine “value” as including cultural, environmental, and security dimensions, in addition to economic measures. It is intended to contribute to a national dialogue and serve as a tool to help inform policy decisions related to marine shipping in Canada.


What is the social and economic value of commercial marine shipping to Canada and its regions*? How will global trends related to shipping affect future shipping activity in Canada?

*The regions are: Atlantic Canada, Central Canada (Quebec and Ontario), Northern Canada (including Arctic and the three territories), the Prairies, and Western Canada (British Columbia and Alberta).

Key Findings

  • By moving goods and people, marine shipping has played a formative role in Canada’s history. Today, despite other competing modes of commercial transportation, marine shipping remains an important part of Canada’s economy and culture.
  • The GDP of Canada’s marine shipping industry is about $3 billion. The positive national economic impact of commercial marine shipping, however, is estimated at approximately $30 billion due to its role in facilitating international trade.
  • The negative environmental impacts of marine shipping in Canada are mostly declining. Commercial marine shipping produces only 1% of Canada’s GHG emissions.
  • The regional and local impacts of marine trade and shipping employment are unevenly distributed across Canada. Some negative cultural, environmental, and security impacts tend be concentrated locally.
  • Commercial marine shipping is evolving in response to global and domestic social trends. The overall effect of these trends will likely increase future shipping activity in Canada.

Report and Related Products

Expert Panel

The Chair of the Expert Panel on the Social and Economic Value of Marine Shipping to Canada is Mary R. Brooks, Professor Emerita at Dalhousie University. For a complete list of panel members visit the Expert Panel page.

For further information, please contact:

Tijs Creutzberg, Director of Assessments, at 613-567-5000 ext. 232 or

For media inquiries, please contact:

Samantha Rae Ayoub, Communications and Publishing Director at 613-567-5000 ext. 256 or

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