Locals Protest ShipBreaking, Where’s the Enforcement?

Residents are upset that the pollution from shipbreaking isn't regulated or enforced

Despite two years of public outcry, operation continues

This Sunday, people gathered in droves to again bring attention to the shipbreaking that’s been taking place in Baynes Sound.

Members of the rally’s organizers, The Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound, have raised alarm bells about this operation since it began two years ago.

Their fear is that the operation could release raw sewage, asbestos, hydrocarbons, and cadmium into the local marine environment.

And it’s not just any marine environment; it’s near where 50 percent of BC’s harvested shellfish comes from.

The shipbreaking is being done by a company called Deep Water Recovery, which says its activities “fall within the uses permitted” under the area’s zoning bylaws. 

The thing about the area’s zoning bylaws is they don’t really cover shipbreaking.

Ray Rewcastle told Times Colonist the community was shocked to find out how little the municipal governments knew about or regulated boat dismantling.

“It’s not something that should be done in an area like Baynes Sound…It should be done in an industrial port like the Port of Vancouver, Esquimalt or Nanaimo… deep water ports that, basically, you can have 100 percent containment with dry docking.”

The BC Ministry of Environment said in a statement that Deep Water Recovery has necessary permits as a company operating in “commercial waste management.”

However, they’ve issued three warnings and one advisory to the company following site visits and water sample analysis.

This included “discharging waste into the environment without authorization.”

“If required, the ministry will take further enforcement action to ensure compliance, including pollution prevention orders,” the statement said.

Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns, who spoke at Sunday’s rally, said Ottawa is holding meetings on improving Canada’s shipbreaking laws.

“You know the vessels are coming into Canada that couldn’t even be brought into Mexico or the United States because we have such weak regulations… And here you’ve got a company doing business in a community, and they have not gained social license.”

The Comox Valley Regional District filed for a court injunction against Deep Water to stop its shipbreaking operation earlier this year.

The BC Supreme Court has yet to set a date to hear their injunction application.

We’ll keep you posted as events unfold.