Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Another abandoned wreck haunts Marie Joseph

Marine authorities seek contact with owner

  • February 14 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

MARIE JOSEPH — Canadian marine authorities have, once again, trained their spyglasses on one of Marie Joseph’s abandoned ships – this time, a half-sunken fishing boat they say is a navigational hazard to this tiny Eastern Shore community.

Now, they want its owner to step forward and clean up the mess. “It’s been on our list for quite a while, and the owner has not been responding,” Build Nova Scotia’s executive director of environmental remediation Donnie Burke told The Journal in an interview last week. “We were given authority by the federal government to [move] on it.”

Last week, Build Nova Scotia – which holds the federal government contract for removing derelict boats from coastal waters on behalf of Transport Canada – posted a public notice to “request authorization to take possession” of ‘Marie Joseph B’ – under section 38 of the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act – which lay just offshore.

Published in The Journal on Feb. 7, the notice stipulated that “The Minister of Transport may authorize [Build NS] to take possession of the vessel if the owner(s) does not contact Transport Canada to demonstrate ownership and take concrete measures to address this vessel within 30 days after the day on wish the notice was given.”

Further, it stated, “If you are the owner(s) of this vessel, or if you have any information about the owner(s) of this vessel, it is important that you contact Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program... [by] March 1, 2024.”

All of which may be easier said than done.

For one thing, the notice contains errors and inconsistencies that could dissuade any already reticent abandoned boat owner from coming forward. The telephone number it asks the vessel’s “owner(s)” to punch is actually “not assigned,” according to the automated message that greets callers.

For another, there’s the unknown identity of the “Marie Joseph B’s” owner, whom Burke said may be “similar” to the former owner of the “M.V. Caruso” – the derelict Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender that had been tied to Marie Joseph’s public wharf for years before being dismantled and hauled away by government-approved wrecking crews last summer.

He said an individual with a well-documented track record in the area for collecting wrecks for salvage operations, known to authorities, is likely owner of another vessel – the tugboat “Craig Trans” – which is moored at Marie Joseph, and is now the focus of “litigation and legal proceedings” involving the Canadian Coast Guard.

And then there’s the funding window for the Transport Canada-supported program – launched under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act in 2019 – that pays for coastal derelict recovery and dismantling up and down Nova Scotia’s coast, which closes this year with no guarantee of renewal.

Despite the complications and uncertainties, however, Burke said the work to remove the “Marie Joseph B” will proceed one way or the other, starting with a corrected public notice. “We were assured that somebody would get [incoming calls]... Obviously, if the telephone number is bouncing back, we’ll have to redo that notice.”

As for the vessel’s owner, he said, “If we do find him or her, then we’ll try to hold him or her accountable... they must remove the vessel.”

If that fails, he added, “We are hopeful that Transport Canada will get funding again this year. Over the past five years, we’ve removed 19 vessels. We currently have three or four other vessels that have been posted for removal, and we have budgets prepared to remove them. Now, we’re ready to move on the ‘Marie Joseph B’.”