HALIFAX—A British Columbia MP is pressing Ottawa to do more to deal with the hundreds of abandoned vessels that blight Canada’s coasts and harbours, despite a new federal program announced last month.
New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson brought her campaign to Nova Scotia on July 25, where money and years of effort have been spent dealing with such high-profile cases as the MV Miner in Cape Breton and the MV Farley Mowat in Shelburne.
Malcolmson said that as things stand, it appears abandoned vessels will still largely remain a problem that is often left to municipal and provincial governments.
“We have a real legal hole in Canada,” she said. “Other countries and other states have fixed the abandoned vessel problem, but this is costing coastal communities on all three coasts big time.”
Malcolmson has tabled a bill she said would address the legal hole by fixing vessel registration, piloting a vessel turn-in program and supporting local salvagers and vessel recycling.
She said the bill would also make the coast guard responsible for directing the removal of all abandoned vessels.
Setting areas of clear responsibility is key, said the member for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
“I think the real failing that we’ve got right now is that there’s no process and there’s no one single-point ministry, and my legislation is intended to fill that gap.”
She said she modelled her initiative on legislation already long in place in American states, like Washington and Oregon.
The Washington state program pools state and federal money together for emergency response and an advanced registration system helps officials track down owners in order to make them responsible for the bill, Malcolmson said. Harbour masters can also obtain purchase orders that can help prevent derelict vessels from sinking.
“If you can get it before it goes down, your costs are minuscule compared to the calamity of the inevitable oil spills that result from abandoned vessels.”
Last month, the federal government announced $6.85 million in funding over five years to help address the problem posed by abandoned vessels.
The money under the Abandoned Boats Program is meant to help provincial and local governments, and indigenous groups cover 100 percent of the eligible costs of assessments and 75 percent of removal and disposal costs.
About 600 boats have been ditched on Canada’s coasts and Transport Minister Marc Garneau has said the federal government will work with the provinces and that funding will be available to address the “backlog” of abandoned vessels.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Transportation Department confirmed in an e-mail that it is still in discussions with Ottawa about funding for the removal of the MV Miner, which cost the province a total of $19.9 million.
It took four years for the 12,000-tonne, 223-metre bulk carrier to be removed from an environmentally protected stretch of coast near Main-a-Dieu, N.S. The ship was being towed from Montreal to Turkey in September 2011 to be scrapped when a tow line broke, causing it to run aground.
In Shelburne, the rusted remains of the once notorious MV Farley Mowat wasted away for years, despite multiple court-imposed deadlines to remove it. It was finally towed away on July 26, with about 100 people showing up to bid it farewell.
From The Canadian Press