Addressing Problem Vessels

Image by Michelle Young.

Abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels (ADVs) are an ongoing problem globally, and one that boaters in B.C. are all too familiar with. ADVs in the Salish Sea pose environmental contamination and safety risks. They are also visual eyesores. Untended vessels end up adrift, washed ashore, sunk, or broken apart, releasing fuel and other toxins into the marine environment. 

The debris and contaminants put marine life and sensitive habitats at risk, endanger mariners and beachgoers, cause harm to shoreline infrastructure, use valuable community resources, and impact the rights and traditions of Indigenous peoples. The challenges are also compounded by conflicting jurisdictions between various levels of government dependent on the location and impact of a problem vessel, as well as barriers in recycling and disposing vessels that reach end of life.

At GSA, our advocacy work focuses on funding and policy that can effectively address ADVs, and ensure that preventive and mitigation measures are developed.

A roundup of some of GSA’s strongest initiatives on ADVs

At the federal level, GSA supported private member bill C-638 to amend the Canada Shipping Act to provide some measures to address ADVs. Unfortunately, this bill was rejected in Parliament but we continued our work at the federal level by participating in a public consultation process the following year in 2016. Our submission included advocating for there to be a reliable identification system for recreational vessel ownership, with annual registration and ownership paperwork – and now in 2021 there’s a proposal up for public consultation to do just that!

This fall, GSA will be making a submission to the federal government’s public consultation process on the proposed Vessel Remediation Fund. Our submission will support the fund, as it would mean boaters chipping in to solving the problem, and because it includes strengthening vessel licensing and making it easier to track problem vessel owners, thereby holding boat owners responsible.

If you want to get involved, you can participate in the public consultation until November 9, 2021: 

In 2019, we celebrated the Wrecked, Abandoned and Hazardous Vessel Act that strengthens vessel owner liability, addresses irresponsible vessel management, and enables the federal government to take proactive measures to prevent, mitigate or eliminate hazards posed by ADVs including directing and holding the owner to account.

At the community level, GSA supported Ladysmith in demands to remove the abandoned and decaying Viki Lynn II before its imminent sinking, and celebrated its removal in 2016.

In 2016, the federal Ocean Protection Plan was introduced – and it includes ongoing funding to inventory and remove ADVs and also earmarks funding for preventative measures. In 2020, the Province of B.C. established the Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund as a COVID-19 economic recovery measure and to support work to address marine debris. 

In seeing progress at the policy level on ADVs, GSA has expanded our organizational efforts to include:

  1. Facilitating marinas, yacht clubs and Harbour Authorities in B.C. to access available funding to remove wrecked vessels, and recognizing these efforts as additional points towards their anchor rating in our Clean Marine BC voluntary marina eco-certification program. 
  2. Educating boaters on their responsibility to properly dispose of their vessels at the end of their useful lives, in partnership with Boating BC and the “Don’t Abandon Ship” campaign. You’ll find this messaging weaved into GSA’s website, our Guide to Green Boating, in our Speaker Presentations and at boat show booths (including virtual presentations and boat show during the pandemic), and on social media.
  3. Participating as a member of the Pacific Oil Spill Prevention and Education Team, a working group of the Pacific States/BC Oil Spill Task Force, which has set derelict vessels as a key priority and published an Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Blue Ribbon Report, which outlines five key elements in a model program for governments to address ADVs.

Derelict vessels continue to cause risk and harm to the environment on the water and along shorelines, and we still have a lot of work to do. Please join us and follow us on Twitter @CleanMarineBC.

2 thoughts on “Addressing Problem Vessels

  1. There are two abandoned logging camp barges sitting on a beach across the bay from my home, where they’ve been for two years now while FLNRO fails to force the owner to take responsibility. It is only a matter of time before the building slides off one of the barges and our remote community is forced to deal with the mess of debris this will cause. FLNRO recently fined the owner appx. $175K, probably much less than what it would cost the owner to tow them away and dispose of them responsibly, if there is a way to do this. Focus needs to be on commercial/industrial vessel owners, as well as recreational.

    • We agree, Krista. Commercial vessels are part of the problem, and each vessel individually can have a significant negative impact. I hope the barges near your home are dealt with soon.

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