Abandoning a boat in Canadian waters will no longer be legal: Garneau

600 derelict vessels already sit in Canadian waters

Canada is no longer going to give a free pass to boat owners who dump their dirty old vessels in Canadian harbours and waterways.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, introduced Monday in the House of Commons, would make it illegal to abandon boats in Canada, while empowering the government to go after the owners of the 600 derelict vessels already polluting the country’s waterways.

Right now, owners who dump and run from their boats are not subject to any penalties, and some see abandoning it as the cheapest, easiest route when a boat is no longer operational, Garneau told a news conference.

“This has to stop,” he said.

Abandoned boats are an environmental hazard, sometimes sitting for years in harbours or abandoned along coast lines with fuel still in their tanks — ”a blight on the countryside,” as Garneau put it.

The legislation, which was promised as part of the federal government’s Oceans Protections Plan, brings into Canadian law the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, a 10-year-old international agreement that establishes uniform rules for removing abandoned and derelict vessels from international waters.

Canada will also require owners of large commercial vessels to carry insurance to cover the potential cost of disposing of the ships, and there will also be significant penalties in place to go after those who do abandon their vessels.

Garneau acknowledged that while the bill gives the government new powers to try and force owners of existing derelict vessels to remove them safely, it packs a less powerful punch for those boats.

There will be no fines or penalties imposed on the owner of a boat which has already been abandoned, said Garneau. The ownership of some of them can’t even be determined, he noted, which is why Canada is also working with the provinces and territories to establish better rules for identifying boats.

The government is going to establish an inventory of the existing vessels with a goal to try to remove them all.

B.C. NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson said the number of abandoned boats is actually ”in the thousands,” according to her unofficial conversations with Coast Guard officials. After 15 years of urging federal governments to do something, it’s nice to see some action, she added.

“This is absolutely a breakthrough for coastal communities,” Malcolmson said.

She said she needs some time to go through the 120-page bill to see if it fills all the gaps she believes have been identified by coastal communities. Garneau has committed to working with provinces to establish better licensing and registration systems for pleasure craft and launch a study to find the gaps in federal commercial vessel registration systems.

Malcolmson said the system for registering boats has become so lax it is fairly easy for someone to abandon a boat without it being traced back.

Her hometown of Ladysmith, B.C., is dealing with the effects of an abandoned vessel that sank in the harbour Oct. 21, spewing oil and gas into the water. The Coast Guard managed to contain the leaks, but Malcolmson said the federal government identified the boat as a risk three years ago.

It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to remove it before it sank, she noted.

Removing old boats can be prohibitively expensive. Last year it cost more than $1 million to remove the Viki Lyne II from Ladysmith’s harbour, four years after it was abandoned nearby.

The government of Nova Scotia spent nearly $20 million to remove the MV Miner, a shipping vessel that ran aground in Nova Scotia in 2011 while it was being towed to a scrap yard in Turkey.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vanier student Tristan Rendell is helping to organize the discussion on COVID-19 for young people. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Students to talk COVID on Zoom Nov. 4

Young people 12-29 can sign up for virtual discussion

Julia Strobach. File Photo
Nearing seventh anniversary, Valley RCMP continue search for Julia Strobach

“We know that someone has information that will help us locate her.”

Comox author Loraine Hartley, with a few copies of her debut novel, “My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family.” Photo supplied
Comox author pens novel about life in a blended family

Generally speaking, authors write their books, then determine a title. But not… Continue reading

Police reported more than 2.2 million Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic offences) in 2019 within Canada- 164,784 more than in 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Crime Severity Index on the rise with the Valley, Canada: StatsCan

There were 1,450 actual incidents in the Comox Valley in 2019

Joyce Jay enjoys a moment with Georgia, her son Ed’s dog, at her Comox home. Joyce is 103 years old. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox centenarian recalls wartime Britain, moving to Canada

Joyce Jay isn’t one to shy away from adventure. She wanted to… Continue reading

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

It’s volleyball season at schools in the Comox Valley, in a cohorted environment. Tournament play or matches between schools are not happening during COVID. File photo
Comox Valley Schools re-opens sports at practice level

Comox Valley Schools has re-opened sports at a practice level, but as… Continue reading

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read