NDP MP wants more action on abandoned vessels

    Photo by Jake Boudrot  The Dutch Runner has been moored at the Port Hawkesbury wharf for the past two years despite repeated promises from past and current owners of its imminent removal.

    HALIFAX: An MP visiting the province wants to see stronger action taken by the government in regards to abandoned vessels.

    Nanaimo-Ladysmith (British Columbia) MP Sheila Malcolmson was in Nova Scotia last week to promote Bill C-325, a bill she says will deal with issues such as vessel registration and support local salvagers, vessel recycling, and pilot a vessel turn-in program.

    “Without the bill, or without any government legislation, we’re back to where we’ve been on all of Canada’s coast for the last 15 years, with a number of abandoned vessels and no clear authority with any federal department to take responsibility for the issue… and coastal communities having to navigate an impossible bureaucracy with no clear lines of responsibility,” said Malcolmson, noting the current shipping act is outdated.

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    Malcolmson mentioned vessels such as the MV Farley Mowat, MV Miner, and the SS Arrow, a Liberian-registered tanker that ran aground in February of 1970 and remains at the bottom of Chedabucto Bay between Guysborough and Richmond counties. In 2015, the government had to clean up 30,000 litres of oil which leaked from the vessel.

    When asked about the NDP’s approach to these sorts of vessels and ones like the Dutch Runner, which has been moored in Port Hawkesbury since 2015, Malcolmson said there should be a system in place that anticipates boats being abandoned, keeps track of the original owners of the vessels, and recognizes inaction has a real cost to the environment and the economy.

    “Other communities in other countries don’t get the run around like Canadians do when an abandoned hulk shows up in their communities,” she said.

    “The government has been promising for a year-and-a-half that they are going to legislate a solution on this but they keep saying it’s imminent and nothing has come. I tabled legislation in parliament, in February, 2016. I updated it in April of this year and it will go up for debate this autumn.”

    Malcolmson said the legislation includes designating the Canadian Coast Guard as the responsible agency so communities can just call the Coast Guard when there is an abandoned vessel issue. Another element is fixing vessel registration, which she said could help create a fee to help get taxpayers off the hook for cleanup, disposal, and removal. She added that a provincial partnership will be important.