Ladysmith residents want derelict vessels out of their harbour

WATCH: A flotilla protest was held in the waters off Ladysmith this afternoon, against derelict vessels left abandoned along B.C.’s coast. Jordan Armstrong reports.

Go to a city in British Columbia with a body of water, and chances you’ll encounter the problem of derelict vessels firsthand.

But the problem may be the worst in Ladysmith, where the problem is particularly prominent.

“It’s a difficult challenge,” says Aaron Stone, Ladysmith’s mayor, who says the problem is too big for the town of 8,000 people to deal with on their own.

“We’re well into a transition from a real industrial past. As we move to a more sustainable economy that includes tourism, and recreation, and focusing on the natural beauty of our harbour…this is a direct threat on the viability of future prospects for our community.”

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PHOTOS: Derelict vessels in Ladysmith’s harbour

Stone was at the harbour on Sunday, taking part in a protest where several small boats surrounded the Viki Lyne II, the latest eyesore to the town’s waterfront.

The 33-metre boat was abandoned by the nearby Dunsmuir Islands three years ago. While the Coast Guard removed 20,000 litres of oil, 13,000 remain – and people in the community believe it’s a ticking time bomb.

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“We don’t think it’s going to last another winter,” says Rob Pinkerton, who organized the protest.

“We have the most numbers of vessels of anywhere on the coast. It’s something that needs to be taken seriously. These little harbours, we’re not going to have a major oil spill from a tanker, but they’re slowly poisoning our harbour,” he adds.

“If she did sink, the Coast Guard would clean it up, but they will not be proactive and clean it up now. They’re a reactive organization…it’s nice to have them out there reacting when we need them, but they’re the ones that need to take the lead on this.”

Communities and individuals have access to a Ship-source Oil Pollution Fund, but only when an oil spill happens.

And earlier this year Jean Crowder, NDP MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Canada Shipping Act.

She said it was in an effort to “streamline it, simplify it, make it easier, so people have one go-to place. You call the Coast Guard, that’s it.”

However, it was defeated, with West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston the only Conservative to vote in favour.

READ MORE: Plan to deal with derelict boats along B.C. coast shot down in Ottawa

Still, Stone is hopeful that other levels of government will step up to help Ladysmith improve their waterfront – and prevent a possible future disaster.

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“The costs of something like this in terms of prevention are much lower than cleaning up after a disaster takes place,” he says.

“It’s a very trying time, but it’s also a time where our government partners can show leadership. I think they understand that there’s an issue here, and there’s an opportunity to take action before it’s too late.”

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