Federal act to make abandoning vessels illegal

File photo The Dutch Runner remains docked at the Port Hawkesbury Wharf.

OTTAWA: A new federal act might help avoid future incidents, but will do nothing to get rid of the Dutch Runner.

On October 30, Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduced the Wrecked, Abandon or Hazardous Vessels Act, which the Liberal government says will make abandoning ships in the nation’s waters illegal.

In a press release issued the following day, Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner stated the legislation “brings into Canadian law the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, a 10-year-old international agreement that establishes uniform rules for removing abandoned and derelict vessels from international waters.”

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The release also stated owners of large commercial vessels will require insurance to cover the potential costs of disposing of ships and that there will be “significant penalties” for those who abandon vessels.

Cuzner said the Liberals are hoping the act will go to first reading in the House of Commons in the next few of weeks.

“I’m confident it will go to committee for further study so hopefully it will be back into the House early in the New Year,” he said. “I was really happy to see it tabled.”

Cuzner said the act would include an ongoing inventory of wrecked and abandoned vessels, and they are looking at options to establish vessel owner financed funds where owners have to contribute to a fund for when things go wrong and vessels end up on shore, like the MV Miner.

When asked if this bill will have any effect on the Dutch Runner, which has been docked at the Port Hawkesbury Wharf for years, Cuzner said the vessel is not abandoned, noting the owner continues to pay dockage fees.

The federal NDP say they raised the issue of abandoned vessels over 80 times since the Liberals took office, noting the Liberal announcement comes just weeks ahead of a scheduled debate on an NDP bill also looking at abandoned vessels.

“Coastal communities have been sounding the alarm for decades over the risks abandoned vessels pose to the environment, local fishing and tourism jobs. The NDP is encouraged with news that the government has finally bowed to the pressure of coastal communities and will introduce legislation,” said Sheila Malcolmson, NDP MP for Nanaimo—Ladysmith. “Although with the Liberals, it’s often style over substance. We will review the legislation and ensure it lives up to expectations of coastal communities and that it offers real solutions.”