Abandoning a boat in Canadian waters will no longer be legal: Garneau

600 derelict vessels already sit in Canadian waters

Canada is no longer going to give a free pass to boat owners who dump their dirty old vessels 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 in Canada, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already polluting the country’s waterways.

Right now, owners who dump and run from their boats are not subject to any penalties, and some see abandoning it as the cheapest, easiest route when a boat is no longer operational, Garneau told a news conference.

“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 their vessels.

Garneau acknowledged that while the bill gives the government new powers to try and force owners of existing derelict vessels 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 vessels with a goal to try to remove them all.

B.C. NDP 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 coastal communities. 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.

Malcolmson said the system for registering boats has become so lax it is fairly easy for someone to abandon a boat without it being traced back.

Her hometown of Ladysmith, B.C., is dealing with the effects of an abandoned vessel that sank in the harbour Oct. 21, spewing oil and gas into the water. The Coast Guard managed to contain the leaks, but Malcolmson said the federal government identified the boat as a risk three years ago.

It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to remove it before it sank, she noted.

Removing old boats can be prohibitively expensive. Last year it cost more than $1 million to remove the Viki Lyne II from Ladysmith’s harbour, four years after it was abandoned nearby.

The government of Nova Scotia spent nearly $20 million to remove the MV Miner, a shipping vessel that ran aground in Nova Scotia in 2011 while it was being towed to a scrap yard in Turkey.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

The Northern View Cannery Road Race: Photos and video

The Northern View’s 2019 Cannery Road Race draws hundreds of runners from Prince Rupert to Terrace

MVP of the Week: Runner ready for his biggest challenge yet

Martin Schouw has found new meaning in life thanks to running, and now hopes to use it to give back

Rupert sees its runners bolt to top times at The Northern View Cannery Road Race

Richard Elkington wins half-marathon, while Katie Beach takes top mark in women’s 5K

Prince Rupert Sea Cadets sail with Royal Canadian Navy

Duo spent days aboard the HMCS Calgary gaining valuable seafaring experience

Prince Rupert not alone in fight to save ferry to Ketchikan: Alaskan Rep. Ortiz

MLA Jennifer Rice weighs in saying ferry closure to impact all North Coast

Heart of Our City: Giving back to their street friends one meal at a time

Karlene Campbell and Marvin Spencer feed the homeless every Sunday

‘This is where the movement is going to start’: Jessica Patrick remembered at memorial march

The march commemorates the one-year anniversary of the 18-year-old’s unsolved death

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Most Read