Transport Canada Gears Up to Remove Derelict Vessels

File image courtesy Jason Drury / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Published Jan 21, 2024 11:37 PM by The Maritime Executive


Hundreds of abandoned vessels in Canadian waters are becoming a threat to the environment, health, safety and coastal economies, according to Transport Canada, and the government is now taking action to deal with the problem. The agency has committed US$1.1 million to remove 34 abandoned vessels in British Columbia waters. 

Transport Canada announced that the funds will be channeled to private firms, which will assess, remove and dispose of the abandoned and wrecked vessels as part of measures aimed at protecting its coasts and waterways. The abandoned boats targeted for removal include recreational and small commercial fishing vessels. B.C. is the epicenter of the problem and has by far the largest number of abandoned vessels. 

The government says that apart from being an eyesore, the vessels have negative economic and environmental impacts. They can pollute the marine ecosystem, damage infrastructure, interfere with navigation and pose a safety risk.

“This investment into the Abandoned Boats Program will help further reduce the number of legacy problem vessels in Canadian waters. Every vessel removed is another step towards protecting and nurturing the delicate marine environment, which is one of our main priorities under the Oceans Protection Plan,” said Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Canada's Oceans Protection Plan makes vessel abandonment illegal, but the country is recording a significant increase in the problem. Since 2017, funding has been approved for the removal of 223 boats, but this will only make a dent in the problem. The Canadian Coast Guard's inventory of wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessels show the country’s waters are littered with about 1,500 abandoned vessels.

Since the passage of the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act in 2019, individuals and firms found guilty of abandoning vessels face stiff penalties. Last year, the owner of the sunken Spirit of Kelowna located in Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, was slapped with a US$19,800 fine for failing to comply with the law.

Top image: Abandoned fishing boat, Masset Inlet, Haida Gwai (File image courtesy Jason Drury / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)