Coast Guard to raise sunken Farley Mowat from Shelburne Harbour

Published on July 6, 2015

A Canadian Coast Guard member looks over the sunken vessel.

SHELBURNE - The Canadian Coast Guard says it will stabilize and lift the sunken MV Farley Mowat from the bottom of Shelburne Harbour by the end of the month.

Once the proud flagship of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the ship sank on June 25 at its berth at the Shelburne Marine Terminal.

Concerns over pollutants saw Canadian Coast Guard and Environment Canada officers arrive at the Shelburne Wharf shortly after the sinking. The vessel was soon surrounded with a containment boom

Coast Guard officials have estimated the entire amount emitted after the sinking was less than 37 litres. More than 2000 litres of pollutants were eventually removed from inside the hull.

Officials say 800 feet of boom is in place and only light sheening was reported in the harbour throughout the incident.

The most recent pass by the Coast Guard pollution response aircraft found almost zero contaminants on the harbour surface.

Keith Laidlaw, a senior response officer for the Coast Guard, said crews are continuing to remove items from inside the ship. As well, all five barrels, containing oily bilge water, that were released from the ship when it sank have also been recovered.

A mobile command centre has been set up at the Shelburne wharf and Laidlaw said they would continue to work at the site until there was “no longer any threat of pollution” from the sunken hull.


Taxpayers not on hook


Laidlaw said the owner of the vessel would eventually receive a bill for the clean-up effort and failing that, the cost would be paid through a federal pollution contingency fund paid for by oil transportation companies. He said the operation to clean out the vessel, make it watertight and raise it would be completed carefully. Laidlaw could not offer an estimate of what the eventual tally for the clean-up would be, only that it would be expensive.


Unwanted visitor

The shell of the vessel was towed into Shelburne last fall after being forced from its former berth in Lunenburg. It had languished at the wharf since. Its arrival in Shelburne coincided with an eviction notice from the Waterfront Development Corporation in Lunenburg.

The ship was originally built as a Norwegian fisheries research and enforcement vessel and was purchased in 1996 by the Sea Shepherd society. 
In 2002, it was renamed after Canadian writer Farley Mowat and used to monitor what the society called the unethical and barbaric killing of seals.

It was seized by an RCMP tactical squad in the Cabot Strait in waters off Cape Breton in 2008. Two senior crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, were also arrested, charged and later found guilty of interfering with Canada's East Coast seal hunt and endangering the lives of sealers out on the ice floes.

The vessel was later sold and found its way to Lunenburg in 2010 for what was to be a refit for operation as an expedition vessel for research in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

That refit never happened and within a year the ship was on the market again to cover unpaid docking fees.


Town of Shelburne response


Looking ahead to the successful raising, stabilization and cleaning of the vessel by the Canadian Coast Guard, the Shelburne Town Council is calling on provincial and federal governments to address the derelict MV Farley Mowatt and others like it. Town of Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall said it was a common issue for many ports.

“Rural Nova Scotia – and Shelburne Harbour in particular – cannot be allowed to serve as a dumping ground for derelict vessels; this is a common issue around the province and across the country and a decisive response from higher levels of government is required,” she said.

The town had recently begun legal action against the owner for unpaid berthage fees. There hadn’t been any fees paid since the vessel’s arrival in September.

As well, while Coast Guard clean up operations are ongoing, public access to the Marine Terminal will be limited.