Two boats aground near the Oak Bay Marina could cause as much damage to the ocean as over 1.7 million plastic straws, says a boat removal expert, and the clock is ticking before the damage is done.
John Roe of the Dead Boat Disposal Society said an abandoned sail boat and trimaran have been marooned for over two weeks and will leak hazardous waste and garbage into the water as they break down.
Images of the cerulean trimaran posted to Facebook show splintered wood and chipped paint, with chunks of material and loose garbage and gloves already pulled from the wreckage.
Roe says waste from one 37-foot sail boat is equal to approximately 880,000 plastic straws dumped into the ocean.
“The amount of contaminants in these things are staggering,” Roe said. “There’s garbage in them, and then all the paints…these old boats have lead in them and mercury, zinc [and] copper.”
It’s all the same kind of materials you would find in a normal house, Roe added, but in some ways worse, because higher-grade chemicals were used for marine vessels.
“It’s like everyone in Victoria going down and throwing out a straw every week,” said Roe.
The Dead Boat Disposal Society works with Transport Canada to remove derelict boats off of B.C. coast lines at no cost to owners. Most of the society’s work is around Vancouver Island and in the Capitol Regional District (CRD).
So far, Roe said they’ve removed 36 boats from shorelines in two years.
“In the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s we built hundreds and hundreds of boats cause the economy was good and everybody wanted a boat,” he said. “Now they’re all at the end of their lives. Because dock space has gone up and because we’ve had such a economic boom here we no longer have dock space for older boats. So they either get left at the marinas or just taken out… or people forget about them and they either sink or break up.”
Now Roe is seeking the owner of the boats, hoping to streamline the removal process.
If they can’t identify the owner of an abandoned boat, Roe said the society has to issue a 30-day notice and go through Transport Canada to make an application for removal. In total, the process can take up to 100 days, all while the boats continue to break down in the water.
Then, the boat is removed with a barge and crane, tested for contaminants, dismantled, and sent to specific dumps or landfills.
But Roe said the process will be shortened if the boat’s owners come forward and sign off on their removal.
“No offense no foul, it would just make my life so much easier if I don’t have to file a bunch of paper work.”