Concerns surface over sunken boats

Jurisdiction clouds the removal of two submerged vessels just offshore from Oak Bay

A pair of submerged vessels in the waters off Beach Drive hammer home the long-discussed concerns of derelict vessels.

Some residents chose to call the Oak Bay Police where Sgt. Ian Craib attempted to get the matter sorted. He made multiple phone calls starting with Transport Canada, then the Victoria Harbourmaster, who directed him to the Coast Guard. His trail didn’t end there. Craib got to the Receiver of Wrecks, then left a message with someone in Vancouver who made it clear if it’s an environmental matter it’s the jurisdiction of Environment Canada.

Duncan/Nanaimo MP Jean Crowder is floating a private member’s bill that would see Craib’s phone trail end much sooner. Bill C-638 would designate responsibility for derelict vessels to the Canadian Coast Guard.

Oak Bay Marine Group supported that bill with a letter last week, followed up days later with photos of the two submerged boats adjacent to Oak Bay Marina.

“It’s such a big issue and it’s been ignored for so long,” said Susan Barcham, director of corporate affairs and communications for Oak Bay Marine Group. “The multi-jurisdictional thing is the worst issue, it’s tied everybody’s hands.”

The seabed is owned by the province while the surface is federal, and the abandoned vessels are often just left, creating navigational and environmental hazards.

“It would at least be a start to solving the issue,” said Barcham. “Artificial reef societies, they go through this rigorous process … Yet we’re allowing hundreds of vessels to sink and rot like these two here right now.”

 

The first hour of debate on Crowder’s private member’s bill to designate the Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks was held Feb. 26 in the House of Commons. The second hour of debate is expected to take place in April.