POLITICS
10/08/2011 03:41 EDT | Updated 12/08/2011 05:12 EST

No fuel seen leaking from stranded ship off Cape Breton, says government

HALIFAX - A badly damaged bulk carrier stranded off Cape Breton does not appear to be leaking any fuel or oily waste water, the province's Environment Department said Saturday.

The MV Miner broke free while being towed last month and ran aground off Scatarie Island, a provincially designated wilderness management area.

There have been repeated attempts to free the 230-metre retired freighter, but the vessel won't budge.

Provincial spokeswoman Karen White said a team of provincial and federal officials conducted an assessment of the shoreline Saturday.

She said the group did not see any fuel or oily water coming from the vessel.

"At this time, we don't have any concerns about any potential environmental impacts on the shoreline from the vessel, but we're continuing to monitor this," White said in an interview.

The ship, which once carried coal, ore and grain on the Great Lakes, was on its way from Montreal to Turkey to be scrapped when it ran into trouble.

The Canadian Coast Guard has said in recent days that a Dutch salvage company had removed 6,000 litres of marine diesel and another 3,000 litres of oily waste water from the ship.

White said it's possible the remaining oily waste water aboard the vessel would be removed over the weekend.

"From our perspective, our primary concern is the impacts on the environment," she said. "The safe removal of the pollutants is certainly a good first step in this process."

No more government visits were planned for the weekend.

In an affidavit filed with the Federal Court, the Nova Scotia government says the salvage and cleanup costs associated with removing the vessel could hit $24 million if the ship breaks up.

Duff Montgomerie, deputy minister of Natural Resources, filed the affidavit to secure the arrest of the Greek-owned Hellas, the tug that was towing the MV Miner.

The Nova Scotia government has also filed a statement of claim against the tug owners for $15 million, or the amount it would cost to remove the ship from the rocks and clean up the area.

The claims have not been proven in court and the owners have 30 days to file a statement of defence.

Premier Darrell Dexter has said he will ensure the vessel is quickly removed if the current salvage operation gets bogged down in red tape. The operation falls largely under federal jurisdiction.