What will it take to get action on derelicts?

The spectre of derelict boats has once again raised its head in Cowichan Bay. The Bay is unfortunately a popular destination for these less-than-seaworthy vessels.

This time it’s a comparatively small boat, but there is a lot of concern that it’s leaking oil.

That’s the problem.

These ships are parked in the bay, often with owners who are far away, and left to disintegrate, polluting our waters.

It should not be up to a local businessman to, out of the goodness of his heart and his concern for the water, do something about it. Why has it fallen to a local man to put a boom around the sinking craft to try to stop the spread of pollutants?

Where are the authorities who are actually supposed to be in charge? Their response to such occurrences has been shown to be clearly inadequate by the history of sinking derelicts in the Bay.

From the long, slow process of getting rid of the derelict Dominion I, to the sinking of the SS Beaver in May of this year, action on dealing with these vessels has been mired in red tape and nobody wanting to be the one actually responsible.

So we have the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Environment, the federal Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada as well as the Cowichan Valley Regional District passing the problem around like a hot potato.

Who’s in charge changes depending on bylaws, where the ship is, if the ship is leaking oil or fuel and a list of other subject-tos. What the public wants is to know who to call to get the darned things out of their Bay.

Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan, has introduced a private

members bill that would see the Coast Guard become the go-to on derelict vessels, so people at least won’t get mired in numerous government phone trees when they want to make a complaint.

Indeed, the Coast Guard are the ones looking at the situation with the boat currently listing drunkenly in the Bay.

The bill is a step in the right direction at least, but has so far not made it past initial steps, in spite of many coastal communities echoing Cowichan Bay’s frustration and anger.

How many more have to sink before there’s some action?

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