Beyond the Headlines

"The Wreck of the MV Miner"

Posted: Nov 15, 2012 11:49 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 15, 2012 11:49 AM ET
Years ago Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the Edmund Fitzgerald with his now iconic ballad. Today, if you were looking for someone to immortalize the "Wreck of the MV Miner", "Weird Al" Yankovic might be a better choice.

Eight months ago the Bennington Group arrived in Nova Scotia with a promise to dismantle the freighter now grounded on the rocks of Scatarie Island, at no cost to the taxpayer. Abe Shah said his company would get its profits by selling the scrap metal and wiring. But now, the New York based salvager has thrown in the towel.

With the project floundering amidst a series of delays, stolen equipment, safety concerns and a stop work order from the province, Shah boarded a plane leaving behind accusations that the NDP government conspired to sabotage the salvage operation every step of the way.

"There was one set of rules for the goose, another for the gander", said Shah. He claimed the NDP's public concern for safety at the site caused his insurance company to raise its premiums. When the province refused to give him more than $300,000 dollars to cover those premiums and other costs, Shah packed it in.

Premier Darrell Dexter appeared more than happy to see him go, even calling his actions "erratic".

"As all of you are aware you had a guy who periodically would flip out to the press and complain or to essentially make statements that were not representative of the work that was being done," said Dexter, "I think any reasonable person just shook their head when they heard some of the things that the leader of the company would say."

But Dexter may not have seen the last of Abe Shah. Just before he boarded his plane Shah told the CBC he was going to sue the province to recover his losses.

It wouldn't be the first time.

Several years ago Shah was contracted to dismantle a large cement plant in Puerto Rico. A few months into the project, with little work done, the company cancelled its contract with Shah.

With accusations and counter-accusations flying from both sides, including theft, fraud, contract rigging, even sexual harassment, Shah sued the company for $10 million dollars claiming breach of contract.

The case was dismissed on a jurisdictional issue, but then Shah's lawyer sued him for $100,000 dollars in unpaid legal fees. Shah counter-sued the law firm for legal malpractice. That suit was eventually settled out of court.

Shah was involved in a similar case in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Shah's company was hired to dismantle and salvage a moth-balled aluminum plant. But a few weeks later, according to court documents,  the contract was terminated and Shah's company was ordered to leave the site. Shah sued. That started several years of suits and counter-suits. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees later, the case was settled out of court.

Shah has also been sued by others. Last August a New York court ordered Shah to pay a client more than $86,000 dollars in damages. According to the court records Shah was paid $150,000 to deliver 500 tons of Grade 1 scrap metal. When it was delivered his client claimed more than 200 tons were so rusted they were useless even for scrap.

In an interview with the CBC, Shah acknowledged these lawsuits, but insists they are merely hiccups in what has been a long and successful career in the salvage business. Still, it seems clear his threat to sue the province may not be an idle one.

In the meantime, the MV Miner still sits on the shores of Scatarie Island, more than 14 months after it ran aground. With winter storms just around the corner, and no solution in site, it appears mother nature may take care of the job Shah and his company, has now walked away from.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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