MV Farley Mowat focus of Coast Guard containment after sinking

What was once the proud flagship of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is now at the bottom of Shelburne's harbour after it sank overnight.

The vessel, once the flagship of the Sea Shepherd society, has been in Shelburne since September

Once the flagship of the Sea Shepherd society, the vessel sank overnight while tied up in the Shelburne, N.S. harbour 1:19

What was once the proud flagship of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is now at the bottom of Shelburne's harbour after it sank overnight.

The Canadian Coast Guard has set up a 180-metre containment boom around the MV Farley Mowat to try and prevent the spread of any oil that might be leaking from the derelict vessel.

Only the tip of the bow is visible above the water. Five to six oil drums on board the Farley Mowat have floated away and crews have only found two so far. A Transport Canada plane was also circling overhead Thursday to monitor the situation.

The vessel had been docked at the Shelburne Marine Terminal since September. Ken Taylor, rear commodore of the Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club, said the boat started sinking Wednesday night. 

A dive team and firefighters were trying to keep it afloat, but were unsuccessful. Taylor said it will be a big mess to clean up. 

'It wasn't worth enough for scrap'

"Now it's a pollution thing, plus trying to lift it — that's a lot of money trying to refloat that — and then what do you do with it? What do you do with it even before? It wasn't worth enough for scrap," he said.

Taylor says the marine terminal is currently blocked off to the public. 

The anti-sealing vessel Farley Mowat sits at berth in Sydney, N.S. on Friday, March 27, 2009. It began sinking Wednesday night in Shelburne Harbour. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The Farley Mowat has been the centre of a legal battle for two months and was placed under arrest in April.

The town of Shelburne is suing the current owner, scrap dealer Tracy Dodds, for more than $14,000 in unpaid dock and berthage fees. Dodds bought the vessel in 2013 after it was sold at auction.

Cleanup costs and unpaid dock fees will likely tally far more than the vessel is worth.

The federal government originally seized the Farley Mowat in 2008 after its captain and first officer were arrested and accused of interfering with that season's seal hunt.

Dutch national Alex Cornelissen and Swede Peter Hammarstedt were later convicted of violating the Fisheries Act and Canada's marine mammal regulations. Video, photographs and radar evidence showed the Mowat pursuing and harassing sealers.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which owned the ship, said the vessel was merely monitoring the seal hunt. 

The group has had a controversial history. Its tactics have drawn praise from supporters and vehement attacks from critics.

The vessel was first towed to Sydney, N.S., following the arrests. It was then sold, with the idea to refit the vessel in Lunenburg and use it for expeditions.

The refit didn't happen and was put up for sale again. Last fall, the vessel was being towed when one of the tugs had a mechanical problem and the Farley Mowat was brought into Shelburne, according to the Coast Guard newspaper. 

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