Abandoned and derelict vessels in our coastal waters pose environmental contamination and safety risks. They are also visual eyesores. Untended vessels end up adrift, washed ashore and possibly even sunk, releasing fuel and other toxins into the marine environment. This puts marine life and habitat at risk, not to mention the danger these vessels pose to mariners and beachgoers and the damage they can cause to shoreline facilities.
The biggest challenge we have in mitigating the impacts of abandoned and derelict vessels is the jurisdictional quagmire that surrounds them.
The issue is so complicated that the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has produced an 8-page document, Dealing with Problem Vessels and Structures in B.C. Waters, as well as the much more detailed Technical Staff Guide on Problem Vessels and Structures.
Learn more about how abandoned and derelict vessels threaten our coast.
- The federal government released their Oceans Protection Plan in November 2016, and it includes a plan to combat abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels. The plan needs strengthening, and we will continue to engage with the federal government for its improvement.
The plan aims to:
- Prohibit owners from abandoning their vessels;
- Make vessel owners responsible and liable for the cost of any vessel clean-up as a result of abandonment, maritime casualty, or irresponsible vessel management, including the requirement for owners of large commercial vessels to maintain wreck removal insurance;
- Empower the Government of Canada to take proactive action on vessels causing hazards before they become more costly to address;
- Improve current systems to more accurately identify vessel owners and ensure they can be held responsible;
- Create an inventory of problem vessels to better understand the scope and scale of the issue and the risks associated with it to inform decisions;
- Work with provincial, territorial and local governments and Indigenous groups to support the clean-up of smaller high-priority vessels posing risks to coastal communities, and develop plans to address large commercial problem vessels according to the risks they pose;
- Create a vessel-owner financed program to pay for the clean-up of vessels over the long-term;
- Promote education and outreach activities to inform owners of their responsibilities for proper vessel disposal; and,
- Support research aimed at improving recycling options for vessels, including design for the environment and new technologies.
- Transport Canada conducted consultations to develop a Strategy to Address Abandoned, Derelict and Wrecked Vessels. Read our submission from September 2016.
- The Viki Lyne II was removed from Ladysmith Harbour on October 6, 2016. Last summer we rallied with Ladysmith to have this derelict ship removed. The Viki Lyne II was at imminent risk of sinking with 13,000 litres of oil and toxins on board.
- Private Members’ Motion M-40, tabled by MP Bernadette Jordan, was agreed to unanimously on October 26, 2016.
“That, in the opinion of the House, the government should, in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous organizations:
(a) take meaningful steps to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels within six months of this motion being adopted by the House;
(b) recognize the requirement for the prohibition against the abandonment of a vessel through potential amendments to any relevant legislation;
(c) incorporate an educational component within the government’s strategy to address the issue of abandoned vessels in order to inform vessel owners on the risks and consequences of vessel abandonment;
(d) improve vessel owner identification by considering widening the scope of the Canadian Register of Vessels;
(e) identify mechanisms for government to assist in the removal of an abandoned vessel where its presence creates an economic burden for a community; and
(f) consider measures to ensure owners are strictly liable for remediating abandoned vessels, such as acceding to the Nairobi International Convention for the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.
- Saanich Council’s resolution to urge the federal and provincial governments to establish an “Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Program” as well as an “End of Life Vessel Disposal Program” was endorsed by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) Convention in April 2016, and the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) in September 2016.
Read the resolution, Saanich report, and our submission to AVICC.
- Private Member’s Bill C-219 was tabled February 4, 2016. MP Sheila Malcolmson says that the bill will “reduce the environmental, economic and navigational hazards to Canadian waterways and coastlines posed by abandoned vessels”. MP Malcolmson’s website includes more details, a link to the bill, and a petition in support of Bill C-219.