Nova Scotia

Tug leaves Sydney but ship still stuck

The Greek tugboat that lost the MV Miner left Sydney on Thursday, days after the province ordered its captain to get the old bulk carrier it was towing off Scatarie Island.
A salvage company says the only way to remove the MV Miner is to cut it up. (Courtesy of Chris Law)

The Greek tugboat that lost the MV Miner left Sydney on Thursday, days after the province ordered its captain to get the old bulk carrier it was towing off Scatarie Island.

The Hellas was towing the Miner when a line snapped on Sept. 20. The Miner, which was due to be scrapped, has been stuck on the shoreline ever since.

The province is suing the owner of the Hellas for damages caused by the tug. The tug was being detained in Sydney harbour, but a government spokeswoman said the Hellas posted a security of more than $1 million — the value of the tug — on Thursday.

Karen White, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Environment, said the captain of the Hellas was served with a removal order under the Crown Lands Act on Tuesday.

She said the same order would be served to the owners of the MV Miner.

Both groups are required to give the Department of Natural Resources details of their removal plan. There was no word on how long they have to comply.

The province has been looking for ways to have the damaged ship removed from the island.

Premier Darrell Dexter has been pushing the federal government to step in and take responsibility, arguing that it wasn't the province that organized and approved the overseas delivery.

"We are the innocent victims here," he said. "We were just unlucky enough to be in the tow path of that vessel and we shouldn't have to be responsible for this, but yet here we are. We accept we have an inherent responsibility to protect our own shores."

Dexter said the damaged vessel will have to be taken out of the area in pieces and that could take months.

"We just expect the federal government to acknowledge that they also have a responsibility," Dexter told CBC News Thursday.

But two federal departments said Wednesday that their work is done.

Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel said his department is responsible for ensuring waters are safe for navigation, and the old bulk carrier is not a hazard to navigation.

Keith Ashfield, minister of fisheries and oceans, said the fuel and oily waste have been removed from the ship and there is no sign of contamination.

The Canadian Coast Guard paid the bill to remove 10,000 litres of marine diesel oil, lubricants and oily waste water. But the salvage company that did the work said the ship is so damaged that the only way to remove it is to cut it up in pieces, which could cost millions of dollars.

Minister has discretion

Aldo Chircop, director of the Marine and Environmental Law Institute at Dalhousie University, said federal legislation gives the transportation minister the discretion to take further action.

He said the Navigable Waters Protection Act gives the minister "a fair bit of power."

"The minister may cause a wrecked vessel or part of a vessel resulting from wrecking, sinking, partial grounding, etc. to be secured, removed or destroyed in the manner that the minister considers appropriate," Chircop told CBC News.

Chircop said normally responsibility for a vessel falls to the owner, not the towing company. He said he would look at the contracts the ship was under when it was being towed and the insurance policies it carries.

The MV Miner, formerly known as the MV Canadian Miner, was on its way to Turkey to be scrapped when the line broke. No one was aboard and the ship was not carrying any cargo.

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