News Feds look to make aban­don­ing ships, boats il­le­gal

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Mia RAB­SON

OT­TAWA — There will be no more free passes for boat own­ers who dump dirty, old hulks in Cana­dian har­bours and wa­ter­ways.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau’s new Wrecked, Aban­doned or Haz­ardous Ves­sels Act, in­tro­duced Mon­day in the House of Com­mons, would make it il­le­gal to aban­don boats, while em­pow­er­ing the gov­ern­ment to go af­ter the own­ers of the 600 derelict ves­sels al­ready pol­lut­ing the coun­try’s wa­ter­ways.

In­di­vid­u­als who aban­don a boat can face fines up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term, while cor­po­ra­tions can be fined as much as $6 mil­lion.

Now, own­ers who dump and run from de­crepit ves­sels are not sub­ject to any penal­ties and some see aban­don­ment as the cheap­est, eas­i­est route when a boat is no longer op­er­a­tional, Garneau said. “This has to stop,” he said. Aban­doned boats are an en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ard, some­times sit­ting for years in har­bours or aban­doned along coast lines with fuel still in their tanks – “a blight on the coun­try­side,” as Garneau put it.

The leg­is­la­tion, which was promised as part of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Oceans Pro­tec­tions Plan, 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.

Canada will also re­quire own­ers of large com­mer­cial ves­sels to carry in­sur­ance to cover the po­ten­tial cost of dis­pos­ing of the ships and there will also be sig­nif­i­cant penal­ties in place to go af­ter those who do aban­don ves­sels.

Garneau ac­knowl­edged that while the bill gives the gov­ern­ment new pow­ers to try and force own­ers of ex­ist­ing dere­licts to re­move them safely, it packs a less pow­er­ful punch for those boats.

There will be no fines or penal­ties im­posed on the owner of a boat which has al­ready been aban­doned, said Garneau.

The own­er­ship of some of them can’t even be de­ter­mined, he noted, which is why Canada is also work­ing with the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries to es­tab­lish bet­ter rules for iden­ti­fy­ing boats.

The gov­ern­ment is go­ing to es­tab­lish an in­ven­tory of the ex­ist­ing dere­licts with the goal of try­ing to re­move them all.

B.C. New Demo­crat MP Sheila Mal­colm­son said the num­ber of aban­doned boats is ac­tu­ally “in the thou­sands,” ac­cord­ing to her un­of­fi­cial con­ver­sa­tions with coast guard of­fi­cials. Af­ter 15 years of urg­ing fed­eral gov­ern­ments to do some­thing, it’s nice to see some ac­tion, she added.

“This is ab­so­lutely a break­through for coastal com­mu­ni­ties,” Mal­colm­son said.

She said she needs some time to go through the 120-page bill to see if it fills all the gaps she be­lieves have been iden­ti­fied by the com­mu­ni­ties af­fected. Garneau has com­mit­ted to work­ing with prov­inces to es­tab­lish bet­ter li­cens­ing and reg­is­tra­tion sys­tems for plea­sure craft and launch a study to find the gaps in fed­eral com­mer­cial ves­sel reg­is­tra­tion sys­tems.


A Ja­panese fish­ing boat lost in the Pa­cific Ocean af­ter the March 2011 earth­quake and tsunami was sighted drift­ing 150 nau­ti­cal miles of the south­ern coast of Haida Gwaii by the crew of an air­craft on a rou­tine sur­veil­lance pa­trol.

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