Local MP applauds as coast guard works to secure derelict ship from N.S. river

Click to play video 'Coast guard begins work to secure derelict ship in Bridgewater' Coast guard begins work to secure derelict ship in Bridgewater
WATCH: The coast guard has been working to stabilize a former navy ship tied up at the Bridgewater waterfront. Jesse Thomas reports. – Dec 9, 2019

The Canadian Coast Guard has secured a listing navy vessel from a Nova Scotia river, in the latest major case to occur in the riding of a federal cabinet minister who has championed the cause of removing derelict vessels.

The agency said in a briefing Monday that a federal environmental team arrived at the site on the LaHave River in Bridgewater, N.S., on Dec. 1, and contractors began work on the Cormorant the next day.

“I’m quite pleased to see the amount of work,” said federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, who has made addressing the problem of abandoned and derelict vessels a personal priority since her election in 2015.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia town to celebrate send off of derelict environmental ship

“It’s nice to drive by and see people actually working on this issue.”

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Jordan introduced a motion in Parliament in 2016 requesting action on removing derelict vessels abandoned in Canada’s coastal communities. Former NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson also authored a private member’s bill.

Ottawa later towed the MV Farley Mowat, the one-time flagship of an environmental group that had long since become a derelict, polluting eyesore, out of Shelburne harbour, to great fanfare.

On Monday, the coast guard said it had removed 19,000 litres of oily bilge water and improved the moorings of the Cormorant, and was planning a “permanent solution” that could include removal.

Jordan, who is the MP for South Shore-St. Margaret’s, announced an assessment of the Cormorant in the summer.

The review found the former naval diving vessel, constructed in the early 1960s, hadn’t been maintained: its mooring lines were in poor condition, sea valves weren’t sealed and the ship was listing noticeably to one side.

READ MORE: MP says not enough being done to deal with abandoned vessels on Canada’s coasts

David Yard, Atlantic regional superintendent of the coast guard’s environmental response unit, said in an interview that the first week of work focused on securing and stabilizing of the vessel at the dock.

This included the installation of eight new 60-metre mooring lines and two large fenders.

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“The vessel was rubbing against the dock, taking pieces of concrete out … The vessel is now secure at the dock and that objective is completed,” he said.

The contractors then removed bilge water to assist in the righting of the ship from a notable list to “a minor list,” said Yard. The team also removed 13,000 litres of water from the accommodation spaces.

They also secured leaking valves and used divers to weld on plates under the hull to prevent water entering some sea water storage areas referred to as “sea chests.”

There is no cost estimate yet on what the coast guard has spent, though Yard says under the principles of the Canada Shipping Act, the coast guard will attempt to recover costs from the vessel’s owners.

READ MORE: Ottawa announces contract to remove and dispose of rusted and derelict MV Farley Mowat

If the owners are unable or unwilling to pay, the coast guard will send a claim to the Ship Source Pollution Fund for reimbursements of its costs, he said.

The fund’s website states it is “an independent fund under the Marine Liability Act, which is responsible for the investigation and payment of claims for oil spills from all classes of ships in Canada.”

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Yard said the fund can attempt to eventually recover costs from the owners when claims are made. He said a Federal Court decision has identified the owners as the Port of Bridgewater and a numbered Canadian company.

Jordan said abandoned, derelict vessels like the Cormorant are a major headache to communities across the country. She said when she was researching legislation several years ago there were about 600 such vessels.

After the initial motion she brought forward, the Liberal government brought in Bill C-64: the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

It passed earlier this year, making it illegal to abandon boats in Canada.

She said she expects her new legislation, which wasn’t in force when the Cormorant was tied up at the dock, will reduce instances of vessel abandonment in the future.

“It used to be that you could park one wherever you wanted and walk away from it and not be responsible for it. The new legislation actually changed that,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.