Many Sooke residents have expressed concern to Sooke’s Mayor and Council and to my office about the old tugboat stuck to the bottom of our harbour. My office, with excellent assistance from the highly competent staff at the District of Sooke, investigated the situation with the goal of finding a solution. We found the following:
The boat, an old tug called the ‘Florence Filberg’, was towed up from Lake Union, Washington State where it was cleaned out of oil and other contaminants. It ran aground here during a storm very quickly after being anchored on November 10, 2007.
It is now stuck firmly in the mud with a gaping hole in the side and little chance of being floated out.
So who is responsible?
The federal government is responsible for the ocean, harbours, and navigation. So we spoke to the Coast Guard and the Receiver of Wreck (custodian of wreck in the absence of the rightful owner). The Coast Guard will only move the vessel if it is blocking a navigational waterway, which is not the case with this vessel, and the Receiver of Wreck, while very helpful and sympathetic, does not have the ability legislatively, or practically, to move the vessel. Moreover, under the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act, nothing can be done about the vessel until it is deemed “abandoned” for a period of 2 years.
Some harbours have a harbour authority or the municipality adjacent has a special patent to manage the waters, but this is not the case for our harbour as it is not an overly busy harbour requiring that level of control.
Fortunately, there is a regulation in Provincial Legislation that might help. Section 60F of the British Columbia Lands Act states that “A person commits an offence if the person… abandons on Crown land any vehicle or vessel without the authorization of the minister”.
The Sooke Harbour is crown land, and the owner of this vessel very likely did not have the authorization of the Minister. The act goes further to allow the Minister to have the vessel removed and the costs for removal recovered from the owner.
In light of this, I have written to the Premier and the Minister responsible for the Lands Act of British Columbia, to ask that they intervene, remove the vessel and bill the owner.
We must demonstrate that our harbour and the waters around British Columbia are not a dumping ground for derelict vessels and that those who break the rules will be held responsible