Local MP hopeful for new abandoned-vessels strategy

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Liberal MP for Cape Breton-Canso is hoping a federal financial commitment to the clean-up of derelict and abandoned vessels will put an end to developments such as the mooring of a cargo ship at the town’s main wharf facility for the past 18 months.

In late May, Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) confirmed an expenditure of $5.6-million over the next five years under the federal Abandoned Boats Program, which is designed to allow federal and local governments as well as indigenous groups to apply for a share of this funding to assess, remove and dispose of abandoned vessels. The program, which is also open to private marinas and other organizations, will cover 100 per cent of the cost of assessments and 75 per cent of the removal and disposal costs.

An additional $1.3 million will be available through the DFO for similar work by harbour authorities seeking to remove abandoned and derelict vessels in small craft harbours, while a further $1.25 million is to be set aside over the next five years for “education, awareness and research” projects regarding such watercraft.

With the consultation phase for this initiative set to get under way shortly and the program’s final parameters expected to take shape by the fall, veteran MP Rodger Cuzner expressed hope that the new Abandoned Boats Program will help avoid a repeat of the case of the MV Dutch Runner, which is still at the Port Hawkesbury waterfront, a full year and a half after it made what was expected to be a temporary stop en route to its final destination of Panama.

“Our nation has the longest coastline of any nation in the world, and from coast to coast to coast, I think it’s around 1,500 abandoned vessels on those various coasts,” Cuzner told The Reporter.

“We’re doing something about it, and we hope it addresses the lion’s share of concerns without creating any unintended consequences or any unintended outcomes.”

In the meantime, Cuzner noted that he has remained in contact with Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton and town councillor Hughie MacDougall with regards to the MV Dutch Runner, and added that he is all too familiar with such issues as a result of the mooring of the MV Miner on the shores of Scatarie Island. A provincial government effort resulted in the removal of the vessel’s components in 2014, three years after it first ran aground while charting a course to a Turkish scrap yard.

“They’re frustrating issues when you have to deal with [the concept that] there’s no more juice left in that revenue orange – some operators that are less than honourable or may be in a position that they can get by without doing the responsible thing,” Cuzner remarked.

“Hopefully, this new program will be able to hold their feet to the fire…[and] we’ll continue to work on that file.”