Deep Water Recovery runs a shipbreaking operation in Union Bay. File photo

Deep Water Recovery runs a shipbreaking operation in Union Bay. File photo

Directors say shipbreaking a non-compliant use in Union Bay

Rural directors who comprise the Electoral Area Services Committee of the Comox Valley Regional District consider a shipbreaking operation to be a non-compliant use in an industrial zone in Union Bay.

At Monday’s (Jan. 31) meeting, directors Edwin Grieve (Area C), Arzeena Hamir (Area B) and Daniel Arbour (Area A) approved a staff recommendation for an injunction to halt the operation of Deep Water Recovery (DWR) because it contravenes zoning bylaws. The recommendation will be considered by the CVRD board at its Feb. 15 meeting.

The district first received bylaw complaints about shipbreaking in March 2020. Staff have reviewed information related to use at the site at 5084 Island Highway South, and determined that the activities are not covered under the Industrial Marine (IM) zone in the bylaw. To allow shipbreaking, an application for a Temporary Use Permit or a Zoning Bylaw amendment is required.

The CVRD has informed DWR that shipbreaking is not allowed. The B.C. Forests Ministry (MoFLNRO) issued a water lease in October 2021 that allows DWR moorage and storage of vessels on the water, and transit of vessels to the shore. The lease does not authorize dismantling of vessels on the foreshore.

The district gave DWR a Jan. 17 deadline to respond, but has not received an application.

In addition to the injunction, staff recommends addressing the issue of “trespass and land alteration” at Glover Community Nature Park, if DWR fails to apply for development permits and undertake “any necessary remediation,” as stated in a staff report.

A community group dubbed the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound, along with the K’ómoks First Nation, have said DWR’s operation is threatening Baynes Sound. They are concerned that shipbreaking poses a risk to human and environmental health due to asbestos and other materials on old vessels.

READ: Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound want answers about shipbreaking

The CCOBS is pleased with the work and recommendations in the CVRD staff report, and with the committee’s unanimous vote. They now question if MoFLNRO will issue a cease and desist order to the foreshore lease.

“If the operator cannot shipwreck or dismantle on the land, why would the FLNR continue to let the operator moor or transport vessels, etc., across the foreshore?” Ray Rewcastle said.

The group also questions when BC Ferries will transport their vessel to a more suitable deep water industrial port for storage.

In a recent interview, DWR owner Mark Jurisich said his operation is not shipbreaking. He prefers to call it dismantling, while he considers shipbreaking to be “a disorganized mess.”

Jim Drummond, facility manager of Canadian Maritime Engineering’s shipyard in Nanaimo, considers shipbreaking and dismantling to be synonymous terms.

“No matter which way you slice it, it’s the same thing,” Drummond said.

At the Jan. 25 CVRD board meeting, directors agreed to a request from Arbour to encourage senior governments to be more proactive to help enhance shipbreaking regulations in B.C. and across Canada. Arbour notes the industry is a necessary but hazardous activity that bears high risk to workers and the environment. While a strong regulatory environment is emerging worldwide, he said 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. “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.

Grieve supported 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.”

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