More than 60 people were on the highway near Baynes Sound in Union Bay Sunday to protest shipbreaking by Deep Water Recovery.
They were just in front of the company’s property, where it’s been dismantling boats and barges since 2020.
One ship now beached is the NOAAS Miller Freeman, a former research vessel in the U.S., and those concerned about potential environmental impacts from asbestos and heavy metals reported on board have been lobbying the federal and provincial governments to act.
“It’s just unacceptable,” said Ray Rewcastle of The Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound.
“We’re the only developed nation that allows vessels pulled up on the foreshore torn apart without proper containment and regulations in place, and we’re allowing it here in Union Bay.”
The province has maintained the company has the proper permits to operate, though earlier this month, B.C.’s Environment Ministry fined the company for failing to submit a required monitoring and assessment report in March.
The fine was $500.
“If you’re a business, $500 means you don’t pay for coffee for the crew for a week,” said Rewcastle.
The region’s NDP MP Gord Johns has been questioning the government about shipbreaking by Baynes Sound and asked another question in Parliament Friday.
“Local First Nation’s governments and residents are asking the liberals to stop extending the permit for the Miller Freeman to be allowed to sit above the high tide zone. Will the government stop this dangerous activity and further develop shipbreaking regulations to protect coastal communities?” asked Johns during question period.
“The Coast Guard is working with the government of B.C. and is ready to assist with the situation as required furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Coast Guard has reminded the parties involved of their obligations under the Canada Shipping Act,” responded Mike Kelloway, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, Mr. Speaker, and will be ready to assist local officials if required.”
The Comox Valley Regional District launched a court challenge in early 2022, saying the company doesn’t have the local zoning required to operate. The discovery phase is now complete.
“You have to produce all the documents around the case, and that was finished in July, so at this point, we’re just waiting for a court date,” said Daniel Arbour, the region’s director with the Comox Valley Regional District.
The company’s owner, Mark Jurisich, declined comment, but in the past he’s said there’s demand for recycling the metal from these ships, all the hydrocarbons have been previously removed, and the company was following all federal and provincial regulations.