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

600 derelict vessels already sit in Canadian waters

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

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

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Williams Lake Trail Riders Arena is slated to have a new roof installed this spring after funding from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trail Riders Arena, stable stalls, to get new roof at Stampede Grounds

Some of the stalls currently aren’t able to be rented out due to leaks in the roof

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read