POLITICS

Locals wanted for ship salvage off N.S., but company says rules must be followed

07/04/2012 05:36 EDT | Updated 09/03/2012 05:12 EDT
MAIN-A-DIEU, N.S. - The company in charge of the salvage of a derelict ship off Cape Breton says the hiring of local fishermen to take part in the process is beyond its control.

In a statement Wednesday, New York-based Bennington Group said it wants to work with locals, but it cannot ignore laws or regulations set out by the federal and provincial governments for safety reasons.

"We readily want to work with local fishers and have indicated a desire to do so, but our hands are tied if the federal government dictates that they are not qualified or authorized to participate in this project," said Abe Shah, the company's chief operating officer.

"We don't determine or set the vessel and piloting criteria, we merely follow it."

Some fishermen in the Main-a-Dieu area have said Transport Canada is making it too difficult for them to take part in the dismantling of the MV Miner.

The bulk carrier ran aground last September on Scatarie Island while it was being towed to be scrapped in Turkey.

The fishermen said Transport Canada is requiring a "steamship inspection" that costs about $5,000 before they're permitted to ferry workers and equipment to the wreckage.

Josephine Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the fishermen, said Tuesday 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 Tuesday confirming that no fishing vessels in the Main-a-Dieu area had been certified to carry out commercial shipping activities.

Bennington Group has said it planned to hire 60 local people for the work.

The company said Wednesday it was told from the outset that vessels would have to be cleared by Transport Canada before taking part in the project.

It said it asked whether the department would work with local fishermen to streamline the registration process and understood that would happen.

Steve Bone, a spokesman for Transport Canada, said in a statement Tuesday that the department was working with fishermen "who wish to meet the requirements."

Shah said the company would press ahead with the work in the meantime.

"It's our hope that all stakeholders will collaborate to make the project successful," he said.