Nova Scotia authorities have detained a Greek tugboat that lost a bulk carrier now grounded and damaged off Cape Breton.

Sheriffs served a federal court order against the Hellas late Thursday afternoon after the province filed a $15-million claim. The tug is required to remain at the dock in Sydney harbour until some financial questions are answered.

"We had to provide an estimate yesterday when we took the court procedure, we estimated that it would be in the area of about $15 million," Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter told CBC News Friday.

ns-si-scaterie-dnr-220

Staff from the Department of Natural Resources inspected the ship Thursday. ((Department of Natural Resources))

"We put in roughly $5 million for environmental remediation, salvage costs and the like. So you’ve got to understand you can only do these things in a ballpark basis, but it would be somewhere in that neighbourhood," Dexter told the CBC's Suhana Meharchand.

The legal filing claims that:

  • Hellas failed to take all necessary and prudent precautions to properly and safely tow and secure the MV Canadian Miner
  • It towed the vessel without due care and attention in the conditions prevailing
  • It allowed the ship to fetch up onto the shores of Scaterie Island, which is Crown land and designated as a wildlife management area
  • It failed to take timely and reasonable measures to remove the ship
  • It abandoned the ship once it ran aground

"Our primary concern is that the vessel is removed safely," said Karen White, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Department of Environment.

"We're looking for some assurance that any cost incurred by the province, if we require any financing for additional salvage efforts or environmental restoration, that they be available."

ns-si-miner-close-220

Debris from the ship does not appear to have spread to the island yet. ((Department of Natural Resources))

White said department of natural resources staff landed on Scaterie Island Friday. They took photos of the ship and confirmed there is a large hole in the side of the vessel. It does not appear to have breached the opposite side of the ship, she said.

Staff inspected the island for debris from the ship, but found none. They found a patch of hard tar about 800 metres east of the ship, but concluded it had been there before the ship grounded.

"Over the weekend, we'll continue to work with the vessel owners, salvage company and our federal colleagues to ensure the safe removal of the vessel," she said. "Staff from the provincial and federal government will also be on site tomorrow to monitor the vessel."   

The tug was towing the MV Canadian Miner in rough seas on Sept. 20 when a line broke. The old carrier, which was en route to Turkey to be scrapped, has been grounded near Scaterie Island ever since.

Lobster-fishing area

Dexter said that he wants the matter dealt with immediately because the grounded ship sits in a sensitive lobster-fishing area.

"Environmental damage is an unacceptable result that can lead to long-term damage," Dexter said.

A salvage company removed 6,000 litres of engine oil and diesel fuel, but there was still about 3,000 litres of oily waste water.

The ship was damaged in a storm Thursday. The Canadian Coast Guard, which has been monitoring the salvage effort, spotted a 15-metre wide hole in the stern and a hole in the side near a cargo hatch.

The coast guard said there was no sign of environmental damage.

A salvage team was expected to return to the ship on Friday to start removing the remaining waste, if the seas calm down.

The MV Canadian Miner once carried coal, ore and grain on the Great Lakes.

Dexter wouldn't say whether the province’s lawyers were contacted by lawyers for the tugboat company.

White said negotiations with lawyers will continue Friday.