Stemming from a request by Area A director Daniel Arbour, the Comox Valley Regional District board agreed to encourage senior governments to be more proactive to help enhance shipbreaking regulations in B.C. and across Canada.
The requested action from Arbour says the industry is a necessary but hazardous activity that bears high risk to workers and the environment. Arbour said there is a strong regulatory environment emerging worldwide, but that Canada has failed to join efforts such as the Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships.
“There’s many things that are concerning that I hope a regulatory framework would help address,” Arbour said at the Jan. 22 board meeting. “In our area and experience, in my opinion, the Ministry of Forests and Natural Resources ignored the advice of local government and K’ómoks First Nation, and did what I consider a poor job in terms of trying to provide oversight.”
Federally, he said there’s a lack of leadership in the shipbreaking sector, so he hopes to initiate the conversation with a push at the AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities) level.
“Everyone I speak with says we should stop sending ships overseas,” said Arbour, noting the amount of dismantling that happens in India and Bangladesh.
Area C director Edwin Grieve supports Arbour’s ideas.
“I think the main goal should be to bring this to the federal debate,” Grieve said. “It’s very disappointing that a country like Canada does not have a policy on this. It’s being noted by other nations as well.”
In recent months, shipbreaking has become a contentious issue in Union Bay, where a community group and the KFN says an operation is threatening Baynes Sound. They are concerned about a risk to human and environmental health due to asbestos and other materials on old vessels. Union Bay Industries (UBIL) owns the property where the activities are taking place. They lease it back to Deep Water Recovery (DWR). The Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound question why shipbreaking is allowed in the community. It claims the activity — dismantling an obsolete vessel for scrapping or disposal — contravenes regional district bylaws.
DWR owner Mark Jurisich says the group is spreading misinformation about his operation, which he claims is not shipbreaking. He calls it dismantling. He considers shipbreaking to be “a disorganized mess.” His company has an attorney looking into claims of a possible non-compliant use in the industrial marine zone.
“We have never pulled a motorized vessel out of the water,” Jurisich said. “We’ve only cut up seven barges (on the asphalt) because of an emergency, and nothing else…We only have five employees in the yard.”
Arbour said senior governments have supported the ship building and ship repair sectors, in terms of regulations and investment, while the shipbreaking sector has not received the same attention. The board approved his resolution that the AVICC and Union of B.C. Municipalities write to the B.C. Government Cabinet with a request to:
• Establish, maintain and enforce a registry of approved shipbreaking facilities in B.C;
• Work with the federal government to ensure Canada ratifies the aforementioned Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention BAN amendment, and considers adopting something comparable to the EU Ship Recycling Regulation or better, such as planning to transition away from beaching practices;
• Provide public investment dollars to qualified shipbreaking facilities to help them meet new standards and regulations.
The board also agreed to forward the resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for consideration by its Environment and Sustainability Committee, with a view to expand the resolution to the entire country, with associated advocacy to other provinces and the federal government.