08 October 2012

Community development association wants Plan B to scrap MV Miner

SYDNEY — A community group wants the province to help create a Plan B in case a New York-based salvage company can’t remove a derelict bulk carrier from the shores of Scatarie Island.

Members of the Main-à-Dieu and Area Community Development Association are still confident Bennington Group can salvage the MV Miner, but with delays mounting, they’d like to hear other options.

“There is a plan in place and we continue to wait for it to start in earnest,” said association spokesman Sean Howard.

“If work can be made on that — at least partial work — then that is fine, but obviously we’ve had a string of disappointments and delays stretching back months and months, and it seems to us unrealistic to just have a Plan A with nothing to back it up.”

The group wants to meet with the province and Bennington Group to discuss options, but also wants the federal government to be more involved.

“The coast guard has been great discharging their responsibilities, but Transport Canada, which issued the licence in very dubious circumstances for the initial towing of the MV Miner, has been completely unconstructive and obstructionist from the beginning.”

The salvage company entered into a joint venture with MV Miner owner Arivina Navigation SA of Turkey to remove the wreck, which ran aground Sept. 20, 2011.

Bennington Group planned to start cutting up the ship on July 10, but as of Thursday afternoon work had not yet begun.

Bennington estimated the removal costs at close to $1 million but could not provide estimates on the value of the scrap.

The province has issued permits to allow the salvage company to work in a wilderness protection area.

Natural Resources is monitoring the operation and can order a stop-and-a-remedy if there are signs of harm to the environment or local fishery, or unsafe work practices.

Bennington also has insurance coverage to address any situation where there is an harmful impact on the environment.

“We certainly share that frustration and anxiety the community is feeling and we are as frustrated about this as anyone,” said Nova Scotia Minister of Natural Resources Charlie Parker.

“This is not a provincial project. The owners have said they are going to remove that ship off of there and they’ve contracted with the Bennington company to do just that.”

Although Parker considers the ship a federal responsibility, he said the province has stepped up to remove unsafe materials from the ship.

“As a province I think we’ve done everything we’ve could,” he said, adding that he’s written a letter to Transport Minister Denis Lebel.

“Really we are calling on the federal government here that issued the permit to have that boat towed in the first place.”

Parker said Bennington’s latest provincial permit calls for work to be completed by Dec. 1, and he’s been told work will begin in a couple of days.

“They tell us and we are dealing with them in good faith that they will soon be there. It’s been a difficult process, but we fully intend to keep in touch with them and ask the federal government to step up and look after their responsibility.”

Meanwhile, an Ontario-based company with extensive experience scrapping Great Lakes vessels like the MV Miner is questioning the timeline and profitability of the current operation.

Wayne Elliott, director of business development for Marine Recycling Corp., said it would be a huge undertaking to remove the MV Miner for just the cost of scrap metal.

“To our knowledge there is no secure place to get out of weather there and the equipment would have to travel quite a distance to safe harbour and then back to site,” Elliott said in a phone conversation from Ontario.

If the weather does not co-operate, he said the equipment could sit for weeks in a harbour waiting for a window to sail.

“The biggest challenge here is that its an uninhabited island and there is nothing available to anyone that goes in there to try and remove this wreck,” he said.

“If it was our company looking at this now, we would take the position that it was definitely too late to start this year. It would just not be practical.”

Elliott said his company just scrapped a vessel very much like the MV Miner and is currently scrapping another freighter called the James Norris.

In all, they’ve scrapped over 100 ships of similar sizes.

“Our surveyors over the years that have always approved our tows have never allowed us to go out into the ocean, the North Atlantic, beyond Labour Day. The weather can just be too rough.”

Marine Recycling Corp. provided the province a $20-million estimate to scrap the MV Miner last year before the ship’s owner took responsibility. That figure included provisions to allow for foul weather, he said.

If a backup plan was put into place, Elliott said they’d have to consider the timing of the operation before submitting an estimate.

Source: cape breton post. By Greg McNeil (gmcneil@cbpost.com). 4 October 2012

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