British Columbia

Abandoned-boat law gives owners 'incentive' to deal with derelict vessels: B.C. boaters

The group representing recreational boaters in B.C. says boat owners now have a "reminder and an incentive'' to ensure proper disposal of vessels that are no longer seaworthy.

Association hopes Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act will curb environmental, safety risks

A sailboat was among several derelict vessels washed up in Cadboro Bay, B.C., in February 2016. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The group representing recreational boaters in B.C. says boat owners now have a "reminder and an incentive'' to ensure proper disposal of vessels that are no longer seaworthy.

The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act received royal assent last week and will soon become law across Canada.

The Boating B.C. Association says the legislation increases owner responsibility and liability.

Boat owners who don't comply will face fines of up to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for companies or corporations.

The association says in a news release that derelict and abandoned vessels are an eyesore and also pose navigational, environmental and safety risks.

Boating B.C. president Don Prittie expects boaters will abide by the law and will take advantage of his group's new database that includes boat disposal options.

"We know the vast majority of boaters are responsible, and step one is educating owners and ensuring they know how and where they can dispose of their vessels,'' Prittie said in Monday's release.

The remains of another vessel that washed up on the beach in Cadboro Bay, B.C. in 2016. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Last March, Transport Canada announced a $1.3 million program to deal with derelict vessels and educate the public.

The program, which includes funds to assist with the removal of abandoned, wrecked and hazardous small boats, ends on March 31.

At the time it was announced, Sheila Malcolmson, who was the NDP MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, called it a disappointment. She argued that funds to remove 21 vessels failed to address hundreds more derelict ships and boats marring Canadian shorelines.

Malcolmson authored a private member's bill more than six months before the Liberal government introduced its proposed law in late 2017.

Her legislation called for regulations for the removal and disposal of abandoned vessels and suggested the Canadian Coast Guard become the single point of contact when removing them. But the bill was deemed non-votable because it covered the same issues as the Liberal bill.

It's estimated there are more than 600 derelict vessels — ranging from giant commercial ships to small recreational boats — polluting Canadian waterways. Until now it has not been illegal to abandon them and all levels of government have faced challenges that included tracing abandoned boats to their owners.

Malcolmson resigned from Parliament so she could run in a provincial byelection in January. She is now MLA for the NDP in Nanaimo.