POLITICS

Nova Scotia premier says company CEO who agreed to remove MV Miner is 'erratic'

11/14/2012 03:13 EST | Updated 01/14/2013 05:12 EST
HALIFAX - A salvager said he was walking away from the removal of a derelict ship off Cape Breton on Wednesday, prompting Nova Scotia's premier to brand his behaviour as "erratic."

Darrell Dexter's comments about Bennington Group CEO Abe Shah were the latest in an ongoing spat between the provincial government and the New York-based company over its efforts to salvage the MV Miner.

"You had a guy who periodically would flip out to the press and complain or essentially make statements that were not representative of the work being done," said Dexter.

Although Dexter expressed frustration with the lack of progress to remove the vessel, he said he wasn't surprised by the latest development.

"If they (the salvager) choose to leave, then they choose to leave, there's not much I can do about it," he said.

The 230-metre bulk carrier ran aground off Scatarie Island in September 2011 as it was being towed to Turkey to be scrapped.

Dexter again called on Ottawa to remove the ship, but the federal government has said it's the salvage company's responsibility.

Shah said in an interview he was walking away from the work following a meeting held with provincial officials on Tuesday.

He said he was frustrated with bureaucratic hurdles and he wanted the province to pay his expenses, including a $40,000 increase in his insurance premium he says was the result of a provincial stop-work order on Oct. 12.

"I've been here for about seven months and for about three months the bureaucracy was so big," said Shah.

The stop-work order forced the company to hire an independent engineer to assess the structural integrity of the vessel.

It was the latest in a series of delays that had pushed the beginning of the operation from its original start date of July 10.

Shah wouldn't say what he asked the province for in expenses, but added he has spent about $300,000 on the job to date.

Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker said Shah asked the province for an amount between $300,000 and $400,000.

"I've asked my staff to contact him and say we are not willing to pay those costs, so I assume that this is probably the end of it," said Parker.

Parker said the province was approached by the Bennington Group about the job and there was never a contract in place for the salvage.

He said the obligation to clean up the site remained with the ship's owner, Arvina Navigation S.A. of Turkey.

But both opposition parties said it was time the province took responsibility to remove the vessel in order to avoid potential transportation and environmental hazards in what is a lucrative lobster ground and protected wilderness area.