© Amy Woolvett
The abandoned hull of the MV Farley Mowatt at Shelburne’s wharf.
Canada’s estimated 600 abandoned, wrecked vessels
SHELBURNE - Bernadette Jordan, the new MP for South Shore-St. Margaret’s, is determined to solve the problem of abandoned boats in Canadian waterways.
Derelict vessels have been an issue for coastal communities in Canada, and the Town of Shelburne is no stranger to problem boats.
The MV Farley Mowat arrived uninvited at Shelburne’s wharf in the fall of 2014 after a vessel towing it reported it was in distress. The stripped vessel was tied to the wharf, and except for the month or so it spent on the bottom of the harbour, that’s where it has remained.
Town officials say the owner of the Farley Mowat has never paid any wharfage fees and the Coast Guard reports the owner has no intention of paying a cleanup bill for its sinking either.
Coast Guard officials say more than 140,000 litres of polluted water were eventually removed from inside the hull and five oil-filled barrels that escaped the ship were recovered.
The cost of bringing the vessel to the surface and the environmental cleanup cost the Coast Guard almost $500,000.
“We have done everything possible to rid the vessel from our harbour,” said Shelburne mayor Karen Mattatall. “It’s a terrible blight on our harbour.”
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Jordan said it isn’t as simple as the government footing the bill to remove the vessel.
“While this is not a new problem, it has persistently proven to be an incredibly challenging issue for all levels of government to deal with,” says Jordan.
She said there is a legislative and regulatory framework that is extremely complex, with involvement from the federal, provincial and municipal level.
“There are no simple solutions,” she told a public meeting. “At least none that will make the problem go away tomorrow.”
This problem is not unique to Shelburne.
Recent estimates from Transport Canada identify around 600 vessels abandoned or wrecked across Canadian waterways.
The expected number of problem vessels is expected to rise in number with more than half of the vessels in the registry being more than 30 years old.
As well, the value of salvageable material is dropping, while costs of disposal are increasing.
But one of the biggest issues is there is currently no penalties toward vessel owners who abandon their vessels.
Legislation has made abandonment a low-risk, low-cost disposal option. MP Bernadette Jordan
“Legislation has made abandonment a low-risk, low-cost disposal option,” said Jordan.
If a vessel does not pose a navigation or environmental hazard, the federal government does not get involved.
Jordan hopes to change this by pushing for new legislation that holds vessel owners responsible and closes the loopholes owners are using to walk away from their responsibility.
“If we can’t dump our aging vehicles on the side of the highway without penalty we should not be able to abandon hazardous vessels in our waterways and on our shorelines and walk away unchallenged,” she said.
Two private member bills were proposed in early February.
“I would like to push this forward,” said Jordan. “Find a solution that is workable to all of us. I’ll push it and even if it doesn’t go through, I’ll rework it and push it again.”