Outrage over the towing of a derelict vessel from Baynes Sound, about 90 km northwest of Nanaimo, into Ladysmith Harbour for disposal at Saltair Marine’s shipyard, has triggered an outcry that is being heard in Ottawa.
The Silver King, which was taking on water and had to be repaired before being moved to Ladysmith for immediate disposal, was moored just off the Ladysmith Community Marina where it is being prepared for safe ‘deconstruction’.
“Before deconstruction takes place of the Silver King, the vessel will be cleaned for safety reasons and to further reduce the risk of pollutants,” said Saltair Marine’s spokesperson Starla Parkin.
She did not confirm that Saltair Marine had been given a window of 10 days by the Coast Guard to complete its preparatory work and get the Silver King off the water.
Ladysmith residents will be watching closely. Last May it was revealed in the Chronicle that the Viki Lyne II, which was towed into Ladysmith Harbour by the Coast Guard in 2012, was at ‘immanent’ risk of sinking, according to a commissioned marine survey.
Since then there have been protests and repeated calls for the federal government to do something, not only about the Viki Lyne II, but about the lack of any process for ridding B.C.’s and Canada’s coastlines of abandoned and derelict vessels.
Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson raised the issue in the House of Commons, calling on the federal government to “remove and safely dispose of a ship that has threatened Ladysmith’s harbour for over four years.”
She also urged the Liberals to “take the lead in creating a comprehensive, country-wide abandoned vessels solution.”
In the meantime, though, she said, if derelict vessels are going to be dealt with one-at-a-time in crisis mode, then the Viki Lyne II should be next in line.
“If the Coast Guard is willing to do one-offs on this, then why not the Viki Lyne II, which has been waiting a long time,” Malcolmson said in an interview with the Chronicle the day before her statement in the House. “Let’s deal with it before it sinks.”
Malcolmson has presented a private member’s bill to the house, which would place responsibility for the removal and disposal of derelict and abandoned vessels within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Coast Guard, and put an end to the bureaucratic shuffle that sees departments and levels of government avoiding responsibility.
“Abandoned vessels are being allowed to sink and pose risks to the environment and economies of coastal communities on Vancouver Island and throughout the country,” Malcolmson said in her April 15 statement.
She urged the government to “take the lead in creating a comprehensive, country-wide abandoned vessels solution.”
The Liberals say they have heard Ladysmith’s concerns and are promising to work on cleaning up derelict and abandoned vessels like the Silver King and the Viki Lyne II.
“We realize that this is an issue and we are making sure that we address it as quickly as possible,” Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport is quoted in a CBC report.
A request to Transport Canada for comment on the issue had not been responded to by press time Tuesday, April 19. An email to the office of Minister Mark Garneau asked:
• Will Transport Canada respond to urgent situations, where derelict and abandoned vessels are at risk of sinking, on a case-by-case basis, until such time as program for effectively dealing with them is in place?
• Will the Viki Lyne II be removed from Ladysmith Harbour and disposed of in the near future?
• Is the federal government considering a comprehensive approach to dealing with the environmental and economic risk posed by derelict and abandoned vessels in Canadian coastal waters?
At the Monday, April 18 meeting of Ladysmith Council, Mayor Aaron Stone said he believes progress is being made.
“I am more hopeful than I have ever been,” he said, responding to a question about the Viki Lyne II at the end of the meeting.
He contrasted the response of the Liberal government to that of the Conservatives under the leadership of Stephen Harper. “We struggled to get any response from the previous government on this,” he said.
In an interview with the Chronicle April 14 Stone said the shock of seeing the Silver King towed into Ladysmith Harbour has been a bad news – good news story. It has galvanized the community’s voice on the issue and sent a strong message to Ottawa.
“The difference now is that several Liberal MPs along with our MP Shiela Malcolmson are talking and responding to these requests for help,” Stone said.
“The fortune of this Deep Bay issue, that is transiently coming through Ladysmith, is that we’ve had the opportunity to have a hot-button topic with the sitting Liberal government where they’ve listened to us and responded to us.”
Stone said the Liberals need to be given time to respond to the issued, but added: “We’ll see how long that patience lasts when we get action or not.”