Coastwise Shipping Survey

Detailed information for January to December 2011




2 times per year

Record number:


This survey collects data on domestic marine transport, that is vessels involved in the transport of domestic cargo between Canadian ports.

Data release - November 30, 2012 (This is the final release of "Domestic and international shipping" and the publication Shipping in Canada (Catalogue number54-205-X), which have been discontinued.)


This survey collects data on domestic marine transport, that is vessels involved in the transport of domestic cargo between Canadian ports. The data are used as input to the Canadian System of National Accounts, by Transport Canada and other federal and provincial departments, as well as by transport companies, consulting firms and universities. The information is used for the analysis of transportation activity, for marketing and economic studies as well as industry performance studies.

Statistical activity

This statistical activity is part of a set of surveys measuring various aspects of activities related to the movement of people and goods. These surveys are grouped as follows:

Transportation by air includes records related to the movement of aircraft, passengers and cargo by air for both Canadian and foreign air carriers operating in Canada as well as the financial and operating characteristics of Canadian air carriers. These data are produced by the Aviation Statistics Centre.

Transportation by rail includes records relating to rail transportation in Canada, and between the United States and Canada.

Transportation by road includes records relating to all road transport in Canada. In addition to surveying carriers and owners of registered motor vehicles, certain programs rely on aggregation of provincial and territorial administrative records.

Reference period: Quarter

Collection period: Continuous


  • Transportation
  • Transportation by water

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The target population is comprised of ships used for domestic shipping that enter or leave a Canadian port, with the exception of cargo vessels under 15 net register tons, Canadian naval ships, research vessels, and ballast movements for towboat and ferry operators on the West Coast ports.

Instrument design

Two questionnaires are used: the S.1 Domestic Shipping Report and the S.4 Towboat and Ferry Operators Shipping Report.

The questionnaires were developed by subject matter specialists through consultation with industry experts. Questions will be changed, added or removed as the need arises. Required changes are usually identified through such means as subject matter specialist research or changes in market trends.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents and extracted from administrative files.

Data are collected through a mail-out/mail-back process, while providing respondents with the option of telephone or other electronic filing methods.

Shipping reports are used to obtain shipping statistics. The S.1 Domestic Shipping Report is the principal form used for data collection. Operators of vessels arriving at or departing from Canadian ports complete this report for each vessel within the universe. The S.1 Domestic Shipping Report includes vessel information such as: vessel name, country of registry, gross and net register tonnage, commodity description, tonnage and ports where cargoes were loaded and unloaded. The S.4 Towboat and Ferry Operators Shipping Report was implemented January 1st, 1979 and is used by the members of the Council of Marine Carriers on the west coast who operate tugs, barges, scows and ferries to report domestic cargo movements on a monthly basis. They are not required to report ballast movements and in the case of a tug-barge/scow unit, only the barge/scow report is required. The shipping reports are mailed daily, weekly or monthly to Statistics Canada, Ottawa, by operators of vessels.

Administrative data on commodity movement, vessel characteristics and movements are collected from major carriers, Lloyd's of London - Maritime Information Services, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans - Canadian Coast Guard.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

Upon receipt, the documents are manually sorted and edited for consistency and reliability of reported data. The capture and editing procedures involve assigning numeric codes to all ports and commodities, checking for consistency of information in comparison to previous trends and port activities, using reference materials for missing or questionable data and conducting the follow-up of questionable reports with shipping companies by telephone.


Manual imputation is used to compensate for missing data based on pertinent industry information and expert subject matter knowledge.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Quality evaluation

The quality of the data is evaluated using trend analysis and comparisons of the data with statistics from other sources including information published by port authorities.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential.

If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data. Data for a specific industry or variable may be suppressed (along with that of a second industry or variable) if the number of enterprises in the population is too low.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Semi-annual estimates are provided. The data for the previous period are revised if necessary. Seasonal adjustments are not made to the data.

Data accuracy

All statistical surveys are subject to errors. The total error of a survey is defined as the difference between the survey estimate and the actual value for the target population. Survey errors can be classified as "sampling" or "non-sampling" errors. The marine transport surveys are censuses and are therefore not subject to sampling errors.

There are four main types of non-sampling errors:

i. Coverage errors (when the survey frame does not thoroughly cover the target population);
ii. Response errors (when a respondent provides inaccurate information);
iii. Non-response errors (when a respondent does not respond to all or part of the questionnaire) and,
iv. Processing errors (errors made during data capture, coding, and editing).

The Coastwise Shipping Survey can be affected by coverage errors. The survey population is smaller than the target population due to the size threshold and the various ship types that are exempted (e.g., vehicle and rail ferries) and the practical difficulty of identifying the fleet of all ships that are active in the domestic transport of cargo.

The survey may have significant exposure to response error, particularly in terms of the reported commodities. The marine carrier of domestic cargo is not always able to provide descriptions that are sufficiently detailed to accurately code the commodity. Terms such as general cargo are often used in cases where the carrier is unsure of the exact contents of a container or when there are a number of commodities being transported in one shipment. As result, residual categories such as "Other manufactured and miscellaneous goods" and "Other chemical products and preparations" may be overestimated while the true commodity is understated. Respondents may also use incorrect conversion factors in estimating the weight of a shipment.

Further, the Coastwise Shipping Survey can be subject to non-response error. Shipping reports are not submitted for all vessel traffic at Canadian ports. It is known that there is a significant amount of under-reporting for the Pacific Coast and the Mackenzie River.

Finally, the survey is also subject to processing errors during data entry, including errors in transcribing and coding information and in converting cargo quantities from non-weight units (e.g., barrels or cubic metres to kilograms). Errors may also be introduced during editing and imputation procedures that are used to correct data that appear to be erroneously reported or partially reported. A number of techniques are used to detect and resolve these errors including micro and macro analysis of the data for congruency and consistency with information acquired from other sources (e.g., cargo statistics from port authorities and economic statistics from other Statistics Canada divisions).

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