POLITICS

Salvage of stranded ship mired in red tape, Nova Scotia fishermen say

07/03/2012 01:26 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT
MAIN-A-DIEU, N.S. - The federal government is making it too difficult for local residents to take part in the salvage of a ship stranded off the east coast of Cape Breton, a fishermen's group says.

Josephine Kennedy, spokeswoman for the group in the Main-a-Dieu area, said Transport Canada's requirements for those seeking work are not realistic.

"Some of the fishermen have picked up the forms to fill out to use their boats, but they're just tossing the forms aside because it's too much red tape," Kennedy said Tuesday from her home in Bateston.

Kennedy said the salvage of the derelict bulk carrier MV Miner is supposed to start next week.

But she says few, if any, local fishermen will be picking up contracts to ferry workers and equipment to the site, mainly because Transport Canada's required "steamship inspection" is too expensive at about $5,000.

"With the lobster season we had this year, they don't have the money to put their boats through that rigorous inspection," she said.

She said she suspects the government and the salvage company are trying to freeze out the locals because they already have certain vessels and crews lined up to do the work.

Transport Canada issued a statement confirming that no fishing vessels in the Main-A-Dieu area are certified to carry out commercial shipping activities.

Spokesman Steve Bone said fishing boat captains must have a limited master certificate if they want to provide passenger transport or other services to the salvage project.

"Transport Canada is working with area fishers who wish to meet the requirements," Bone said in the statement.

A meeting with the salvage company is scheduled for this Friday in Main-a-Dieu. Kennedy said she hopes the fishermen looking for work will be accommodated in some way.

Two months ago, the province said New York-based Bennington Group would dismantle the wreck, which ran aground last September on Scatarie Island while it was being towed to be scrapped in Turkey.

The salvage company has said it plans to hire 60 local people.

Fisherman Ken Wadden said the forms he was asked to fill out were so complicated he gave up in frustration.

"As far as I'm concerned, they're in Greek," he said from his home in Main-a-Dieu. "You can't understand them."

He said none of fishermen in the village have the qualifications Transport Canada is looking for, even though local boats have been carrying tourists and campers to Scatarie Island for years.

And even if all the forms were filled out and the inspections completed, there's no guarantee local fishermen will get hired, he said.

"You could be firing all of that money in the garbage," he said. "It's too crazy. ... Nobody can understand it."

Wadden, a fisherman for more than 50 years, said he and some other fishermen have left their traps close to the wreck, and they don't plan on moving them until a resolution is reached.

"It's nothing but buoys and ropes," he said. "If they want anything brought in or brought out, if the fishermen are not going to get on down there, they're certainly not going to move no gear."

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax