People converged on and off the water Sunday afternoon to demand the removal of the Viki Lyne II – a derelict vessel a Canadian Coast Guard commissioned study has characterized as a ‘threat to the environment’ – from Ladysmith Harbour.
Mayor Aaron Stone said Ladysmith is a ‘microcosm’ of communities all over B.C. and Canada, threatened by derelict vessels like the Viki Lyne, that have been abandoned in their waters.
“Over the last hundred years we have transitioned from an industrial heritage to a new future of recreation, tourism and sustainability, including things like aquaculture,” Stone said.
“These things are under direct threat by the Viki Lyne and the other vessels you see sunken around you here today.”
He said the cost of a clean-up if the Viki Lyne II sinks – which the Coast Guard commissioned study said is an ‘immanent’ risk – would be far more than the cost of removing her.
“The budget and cost that would be involved for removing a vessel like the Viki Lyne II from our harbour will save a factor of ten times the cost of cleaning up that damage should she sink,” Stone said.
A clean-up could also take years. “Now is the time for action; an ounce of prevention for a pound of cure,” he said.
Grant Dobey, his family and friends, were among the boats that congregated to show their support for an initiative to get the Viki Lyne II removed.
“I’m just frustrated by the inaction and runa
ound we get from the different agencies and governments when we try to get this problem dealt with,” he said.
“I think they should use the funds that are available for derelict vessels and remove it, and scrap it properly before it sinks.”
Bryn Dobey and Ava Smith were in the bow of the Westy Surveyor, which Grant was pilotin
g, holding a sign that said ‘Protect Ladysmith Harbour.’
At 11 years old, they don’t want to see their futures impacted by vessels like the Viki Lyne II.
“It’s such a beautiful harbour, and I think they should help it, and take it (the Viki Lyne II) out, and actually do something about it,” Bryn said.
Added Ava, “This boat has been here for a while, and no-one’s done anything about it, and I don’t think that’s good because there’s a lot of things this harbour is doing for this town and this boat here could ruin some of the resources.”
NDP Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidate in October’s federal election Sheila Malcolmson, who joked earlier that she had become ‘immersed in the issue’ after falling out of a canoe into the water, had serious words to say about the need for a ‘comprehensive solution’ to the issue of abandoned, derelict vessels in Canadian harbours.
“The Canadian Coast Guard recommended that this vessel be disassembled immediately,” Malcolmson said, referencing a June 2012 report by McAllister Marine Survey & Design.”That was a strong, forceful recommendation.” But it has gone unheeded by the “Harper government.”
She reminded the crowd that the Conservative government voted down a private member’s bill by current Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder, which was supported by all other parties in the House of Commons. Crowder’s bill was intended to give the Coast Guard more powers to deal with the issue of derelict and abandoned vessels.
The Conservative government’s scuttling of the bill was “a failure of leadership,” Malcolmson said.
Michelle Young, Clean Marine BC Coordinator with the Georgia Strait Alliance, agreed a comprehensive solution is needed. She said Canada and B.C. can look south, to Washington State, for an example of a program that works.
“There’s an ongoing program where they work with boat owners to prevent problem vessels from sinking and if they become a problem that can’t be prevented, then they remove them,” she said.
“They’re actually saving money by being proactive, rather than being reactive.”
Young said the practice in Canada of the Coast Guard having no budget to remove derelict vessels, but instead, having to remove them within their existing budget then apply after the fact to recover costs from a Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund makes no sense.
“With the cuts to the Coast Guard, how are they supposed to take care of these derelict vessels?” she asked. “The resources aren’t there to deal with it.”