Canada looks to bolster crude oil tanker safety
* Ottawa to study new laws, liability, compensation
* Pipeline projects would mean surge in tanker traffic
* New safety measures introduced
CALGARY, Alberta, March 18 (Reuters) - Canada's government will examine strengthening oil tanker safety, including introducing new laws and penalties, as it seeks to increase vastly exports of crude oil to Asia and other markets, it said on Monday.
The Transport Canada ministry said it has formed an expert tanker safety panel to review the current system and propose new measures by this autumn as proposed projects such as Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' Trans Mountain pipeline expansion point to a huge increase in ocean-going traffic.
The moves are aimed at improving preparedness and response in case of oil spills and other accidents, Transport Canada said.
Fear of such risks is front and center in the debates over the controversial pipelines, which are opposed by environmental groups and many aboriginal communities in British Columbia.
Among areas to be reviewed by the three-member panel are liability and compensation. Ship owners are responsible for the cost of cleaning up any oil spill and are required to have insurance to an amount linked to the tonnage of the vessel, according to the ministry.
If damages exceed the owner's liability, international and domestic funds provide additional compensation to a total of C$1.36 billion ($1.33 billion). Continued...