Big court awards for ship cleanups may yield small returns for plaintiff

A notorious scrap metal dealer from Nova Scotia is on the hook for more than $1 million in cleanup costs related to two derelict ships he owned, although the organization awarded the judgments is skeptical it will see much of that money.

Tracy Donald Dodds owes $1.2M for cleanup of 2 derelict ships

Two Federal Court summary judgments require Tracey Donald Dodds to pay $1.2 million. (CBC)

A notorious scrap metal dealer from Nova Scotia is on the hook for more than $1.2 million in cleanup costs for two derelict vessels he owned, although the organization awarded the judgments is skeptical it will see much of that money.

The Federal Court released two summary judgments Monday in matters between Tracy Donald Dodds and the administrator of the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund.

One relates to the Canadian Coast Guard's cleanup of the ship Farley Mowat, which sank in Nova Scotia's Shelburne harbour in 2015. The other is for the coast guard's cleanup of the Ryan Atlantic II, formerly known as the Cape Rouge, which sank at its berth in Bridgewater, N.S., in 2014.

The MV Farley Mowat, a former anti-sealing vessel once owned by the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, had been rusting at Shelburne's wharf since September 2013. (Robert Short/CBC)

In each case, the coast guard was forced to raise the vessel when Dodds failed to act, and contain and clean up any oil that was discharged. The coast guard applied to the Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund to cover costs of the work and was approved. The mandate of the fund is to compensate victims of damage and then uphold the polluter-pays principle by recovering costs.

"It's a win for Canadians and the administrator that the court finds that polluters should pay," David Cote, legal counsel for the fund, said in an interview.

Despite the win, Cote acknowledged it will be difficult to collect on the judgments, one for about $867,000 and the other for about $395,000. Dodds has repeatedly resisted orders to pay his debts, missed court hearings and ignored deadlines to take care of the vessels.

The biggest challenge for the fund is cases related to smaller vessels, such as former fishing boats and pleasure crafts that, in some cases, are unregulated, said Cote.

"These are the vessels that, in terms of volume, cause us the most trouble and cost the most to the Canadian taxpayer at the moment."

The Farley Mowat, shown here in Shelburne in December 2015. (CBC)

That's because in cases involving those types of vessels, the owners often lack the necessary funds and insurance to cover their bills, said Cote.

"Even when we win, we have a really hard time recovering any money at all."

In both of her judgments, Justice Elizabeth Heneghan noted Dodds offered no evidence. Dodds disputed the allegations against him and said he did not own the vessels in each case during oral submissions.

No evidentiary value

In the case of the Farley Mowat, Dodds said it was the Shelburne port authority that owned the ship because he was blocked access from the wharf where it sat wasting away.

He said he sold the Ryan Atlantic II in 2010, and while he produced a bill of sale and bank draft in making his case during a hearing, it was noted the ship was still registered to him on a Transport Canada website in 2014 and 2016.

Heneghan found Dodds's materials, which were not attached to an affidavit as exhibits, had "no present evidentiary value."

Dodds could not be reached for comment.

With files from Richard Cuthbertson

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