Concerns grow about derelict former BC Ferries ship moored on Fraser River

Click to play video: 'Concerns about derelict ferry on Fraser River'
Concerns about derelict ferry on Fraser River
WATCH: The former BC Ferries Queen of Sidney has been moored on the Fraser River near Mission for more than 20 years, and it's in rough shape. The vessel is rusting, and concern is growing that it's a major pollution hazard. Kamil Karamali reports. – Sep 21, 2023

Concerns are once again being raised about one of BC Ferries’ first ships, which is now rusting away in the Fraser River.

The Queen of Sidney was in service for 40 years from 1960 to 2000.

Two years later it was sold to a private citizen and for the past few decades, it has been moored on the river near Mission.

But those years have caused the boat to decline due to a lack of upkeep.

The former ferry is now causing worry on two fronts as it’s a major pollution hazard and it could possibly break free of its mooring and crash into something downriver.

Local resident Garrett Miller went on board the vessel recently to see what was inside and he took some pictures and videos.

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He said it wasn’t hard to gain access to the ship but he was shocked at some of the things he saw on board, especially in the engine room.

“Just the amount of oil that looks like it’s leaked out of machinery,” he told Global News. “It’s just some very thick black oil sitting on top of a film of water, since the ship has now sunk and is sitting on the riverbed.”

Miller also said there is a big hole between the car deck and the engine room and it looks like some of the machinery has been removed.

“Obviously they didn’t drain the oil from the engines or other equipment down there,” he said. “So now that is leaked out on top of the water that’s taken over the engine room.”

He said the whole site is an environmental hazard and much of the inside is covered in grease and oil.

Click to play video: 'Calls grow to do more to clean up B.C.’s coast of derelict vessels'
Calls grow to do more to clean up B.C.’s coast of derelict vessels

Miller said he would like to see the site cleaned up at the very least.

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On Tuesday, provincial environmental protection officers visited the ship and said they observed no pollution entering the river.

It is not clear who owns the vessel at this time and Global News has been unable to reach anyone for comment.

In a statement, the City of Mission said it has tried to get the Queen of Sydney removed over the years, but the powers to do so are with the provincial or federal governments.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said the provincial government is aware of the derelict vessel.

“The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) has jurisdictional lead for pollution occurring from vessels in navigable waters,” it said in a statement.

However, the CCG said it has not received any recent reports about the Queen of Sidney.
“Members of the public should never venture into or on a vessel of concern due to the many potential hazards these vessels can pose,” the organization said in a statement.

All incidents of marine pollution are required by law, under the Canada Shipping Act, to be reported to the Canadian Coast Guard, including sunken vessels and hydrocarbon releases. Marine pollution should be reported by calling: 1-800-889-8852.

The responsibility for any vessel lies with the registered owner. Under Section 33 of Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, it is prohibited for an owner of a vessel to let it become a wreck for reason of failing to maintain it.

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John Rowe, director of the Dead Boats Society, said one of the challenges with removing these vessels is the lack of facilities to perform this work.

“It’s expensive, but we need to build a facility to do it,” he said. “We need an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 14,000 facilities to do it. There is an interest out there, but we just need the support from our federal government in particular.”

Rowe said there are enough derelict vessels in B.C.’s waters to warrant a facility.

“We have a free trade deal with the United States — you’re looking at just ferries alone between Washington state. BC Ferries and Alaska State Ferries alone — that’s enough for a yard to start with. Then you have our military, you have our Coast Guard.”

He added that due to Canada’s free trade agreement with the United States, the organization can bring contaminated vessels to B.C. to dispose of them.

“So there’s there’s plenty of opportunity here,” Rowe said. “We just need to step up to the plate and get it done.”

Click to play video: 'Derelict vessels to be removed from Nicomekl River'
Derelict vessels to be removed from Nicomekl River

When it comes to the Queen of Sidney, Rowe said the boat might contain materials such as asbestos. lead, mercury, zinc, copper and more.

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He thinks it would cost between $20 million and $30 million to dispose of it correctly.

It could cost about $200 million to build a facility, he estimated.

“But it can be done and it should be done,” Rowe added. “There is money to be made at doing this. And the other thing is the recyclables you get out of (it) for sale and things like that. And just the equipment alone, it can be done and it can create a lot of employment for a lot of people.”

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