POLITICS

Nova Scotia expects revised plan for removal of stranded ship within two days

08/02/2012 02:27 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government says it expects a revised work plan within the next couple of days for the dismantling of a ship that ran aground off Cape Breton more than 10 months ago.

The MV Miner ran aground off Cape Breton on Sept. 20, 2011, while being towed to a scrapyard in Turkey.

Since then, the 230-metre bulk carrier has been sitting on Scatarie Island where it is becoming increasingly damaged by rough waters.

New York-based Bennington Group offered to remove the derelict ship and removal was supposed to start in July and be completed before the traditional onset of hurricane season in September.

Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker says he expects the Bennington Group to provide a revised plan on how it intends to remove the ship within the next two days.

The provincial government has been pushing for the federal government to accept responsibility for removing the vessel, but Premier Darrell Dexter has said that nobody wants the liability.

Nova Scotia and Ottawa reached agreements on removing asbestos-laden material in the fall and Environment Canada removed fuel and contaminated water shortly before.

Dan Davis, a spokesman for the province's Natural Resources Department, said the Bennington Group approached the government in late 2011 and offered to remove the ship.

He said the company has a working relationship with the ship's owners and is not being paid by the government, but will be able to make money off the ship's scrap metal.

A plan for the ship's removal was outlined in April. But problems arose when local fishermen accused Transport Canada of making it too difficult for them to work for the Bennington Group on the ship's removal.

A fishermen's group in Cape Breton said Transport Canada required their boats to undergo a "steamship inspection" that would cost them about $5,000 — something they couldn't afford.

The group said it suspects the government and the salvage company were trying to freeze out the locals because they already have certain vessels and crews lined up to do the work.

Abe Shaw, the chief operating officer of the Bennington Group, said the ship's removal has been delayed because there were difficulties trying to employ locals. But Shaw said it has since hired Sydney, N.S.-based Parsons Construction to help with the work.

He said the group has provincial authority to remove the ship until Aug. 31 and will ask the government on Tuesday for an extension until the end of September.

"We have a lot more equipment and people so we can work at a faster pace," he said.

Steve Bone, a spokesman with Transport Canada, said selection of the boats involved in the salvage operation is up to the Bennington Group, but the boats must meet Transport Canada standards for the operation.