Clean Marine BC

Abandoned and derelict vessels

Photo by Alan Wilson

Photo by Alan Wilson

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.

Recent developments:

The Islands Trust is undertaking an inventory of abandoned and derelict vessels in the Islands Trust area. Visit their website for more information and to report a vessel of concern.

Bill C-64 – the Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act was introduced in the House of Commons on October 30, 2017. We will be monitoring the bill and participating in consultations. Below is a brief overview of the key elements of the proposed bill:

Strengthening vessel owner liability

The bill will give the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 force of law in Canada and further extend it to all Canadian waters. This would include new obligations to report, locate, mark and remove wrecks as well as make vessel owners automatically liable for hazardous wrecks resulting from maritime casualties. Owners of large vessels (300 gross tons or larger) would be required to maintain insurance or other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal, should the wreck pose a hazard.

Addressing irresponsible vessel management

The bill proposes prohibitions on the following activities:

  • Vessel abandonment unless authorized by law or in case of a maritime emergency;
  • Causing a vessel to become a wreck (e.g., deliberate scuttling);
  • Leaving a vessel adrift for a period of 48 hours or more without taking concrete measures to secure it; and,
  • Leaving a dilapidated vessel (in poor condition or state of neglect) in the same area for more than 60 days without the consent of the manager, owner or lessee of the area (such as a Canada Port Authority or harbour master).

Empowering the federal government

The bill proposes to empower the federal Government to take proactive measures to prevent, mitigate or eliminate hazards posed by vessels or wrecks including directing and holding the owner to account.

The federal government launched their initiative to address abandoned boats in May 2017 under the Oceans Protection Plan. The new program provides grant and contribution funds to:

  • Assist communities in the assessment, removal and disposal of existing high-priority abandoned and/or wrecked small boats posing a hazard in Canadian waters;
  • Educate small-boat owners about how to responsibly manage their end-of-life boats;
  • and support research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design.

The $6.85 million plan is woefully inadequate to address the enormity of the problem, and requires strengthening. We will continue to engage with the federal government for improvement, and are watching for further action on a number of items from the Ocean Protection Plan announcement last November. The Ocean Protection 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

A Private Member’s Bill was tabled April 13, 2017. MP Sheila Malcolmson’s website includes more details, a link to the bill, and a petition in support of Bill C-352. The bill aims to:

  • Have the Coast Guard designated as the receiver of wrecks;
  • Develop a coast-wide strategy in cooperation with local and provincial governments;
  • Get taxpayers off the hook by fixing vessel registration and developing a fee to help cover cost of vessel disposal;
  •  Pilot a turn-in program at safe recycling facilities to prevent vessels from becoming hazards; and,
  • Create green jobs by supporting local marine salvage businesses.

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. The previous 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.