Later this month, Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder’s private member’s bill regarding derelict vessels will be debated in the House of Commons.
Crowder has been pushing for legislation that would offer a permanent solution to the question of who is responsible for taking care of abandoned vessels and docks, and she’ll take one step closer to reaching that solution when the bill is debated Feb. 26 in Ottawa.
Looking for support for the bill, Sheila Malcolmson, the Nanaimo-Ladysmith federal NDP candidate, addressed Ladysmith council Feb. 2.
Bill C-368 will designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks and require them to take reasonable steps to contact the owner and will also make regulations on the removal, disposition or destruction of derelict vessels, according to Malcolmson. It is intended to give the Coast Guard the regulatory power to take action before a derelict vessel becomes a hazard.
On her website, Crowder explains that “the current regulatory regime is not serving our communities, and this has been reflected in the complaints lodged with the constituency office of the Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan. These communities depend on tourism, which is threatened by the growing number of derelict and abandoned vessels present in the water or beached in the intertidal zone. While major environmental dangers from derelict and abandoned vessels are dealt with swiftly by the Canadian Coast Guard, many are left to simply rot away and leach chemicals into the surrounding environment. If an abandoned and derelict vessel is not a major environmental concern and is not posing an obstacle to navigation, there is usually no action taken.”
She says the private member’s bill aims to obligate the government to act when derelict vessels are abandoned; strengthen the requirements relating to derelict vessels and wrecks by ensuring regulations are made to establish measures to be taken for their removal, disposition or destruction; and designate the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wreck and require receivers of wreck to take reasonable steps to determine and locate the wreck’s owners.
Malcolmson was the chair of the Islands Trust Council for 12 years and worked with council to try to address this issue.
“We have worked together, and Ladysmith council has been a particular leader on this issue of no-man’s-land jurisdiction around derelict vessels,” she said.
Malcolmson told council that abandoned boats and docks are a problem all up and down B.C.’s coast.
“We’ve got an increasing number of fishing boats abandoned; we’ve got an increasing number of fiberglass vessels reaching their life’s end; we’ve got increasing intensity of storms that’s creating more boats washing up,” she said. “And it has become clear that the federal jurisdiction around this was designed more for a time of piracy where the laws are very protective of people’s boats and no one can kind of just move in and take one over.”
Malcolmson feels optimistic that the upcoming debate means this is a good opportunity to urge that there be support for a permanent solution.
“To me, the fact there is going to be debate in the House of Commons does mean some extra urgency and gives the issue still more of a highlight,” she said.
After hearing from Malcolmson, council voted to write a strongly-worded letter to Crowder and to Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt conveying support for Bill C-638 to resolve the environmental, economic and navigational hazards posed by derelict vessels.
“I want to thank you for your advocacy on this and bringing this not only to our table but the other municipalities,” said Coun. Rob Hutchins. “I’m really hopeful that this bill will see the light of day and be supported by the government and actually make a difference in our communities.”
Crowder introduced Bill C-368 in the House of Commons Dec. 1. She had previously introduced a private member’s bill to deal with derelict vessels in June 2011, but it stalled at first reading, so she re-introduced the bill late last year.