Canadian Coast Guard urges patience as it deals with up to 1,600 derelict boats

With close to 1,600 abandoned and derelict boats reported to be in the waters around B.C., the Canadian Coast Guard is asking for patience from boaters and others as it works to enforce the two-year-old Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

Before July 2019, when the act came into effect, it was legal and common to abandon a boat along Canada's 243,042 kilometres of coastline.

Robert Brooks, national director of the vessels of concern program for the Canadian Coast Guard, said the act "brought a lot of clarity."

"For the first time, we had the enforcement powers — while working collaboratively with owners — to remove a boat if we determined that it posed a hazard to safety, navigation, property, community or a threat to the marine environment," he said.

He described the act as a legal framework that sets out the rights, obligations and liabilities of boat owners. For the first time, it required boats of more than 300 gross tonnes to carry insurance on the chance they could become a hazardous wreck in Canadian waters. "Until then, a ship's owner could legally just abandon her," said Brooks, who is based in Ottawa.

While the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act gives the coast guard the power to prosecute owners, its track record so far has been called into question by some.

Michael Simmons, vice-chair of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, called the act a step in the right direction, but said the group forwarded a list of six boats of concern to the coast guard this year, and it didn't act on any. "It seems the only time they act is after the boats have sunk."

by Pedro Arrais, Times Colonist, Oct 10, 2021
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