10/11/2011 02:04 EDT | Updated 12/11/2011 05:12 EST

MV Miner: Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter Aims Broadside At Ottawa Over Federal Response To Stuck Ship

Nova Scotia Government

HALIFAX - In the three weeks since an empty bulk carrier ran aground off Cape Breton, the premier of Nova Scotia says he has yet to get a straight answer from Ottawa about who is in charge of the file.

Darrell Dexter said Tuesday his officials have been talking to the coast guard and Transport Canada but neither of those federal agencies has committed to offering any direction, even though the matter is within federal jurisdiction.

"The fact of the matter is that the ship itself is a potential source of harm to the fishing grounds there," Dexter said.

"This issue is: who in the federal government is going to provide direction? ... We are talking to all of the departments, but as of yet we have not received a reply."

Even though all of the diesel and oily bilge water have been removed from the badly damaged MV Miner, Dexter said the 230-metre ship remains a threat because it is probably coated in lead paint and contains electronic gear that could contaminate the surrounding water.

"There are questions for the federal government in terms of when are they going to engage on this very important issue," he said. "We're having difficulty getting a clear response from federal officials."

Dexter said he was getting help from his federal counterparts, including interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel, who met with the premier Tuesday in Halifax.

"We are looking for removing this ship safely to make sure that it doesn't have an impact on the environment for the island," Turmel told reporters after her meeting with Dexter.

Earlier in the day, a coast guard spokesman said the agency — a branch of the Fisheries Department — had relinquished its status as lead agency to Transport Canada because the threat of a spill has passed.

On Saturday, coast guard crews reported seeing some "minor sheening" at the stern of the wreck, indicating a spill of some kind.

"The engine room was identified as the source of this sheening," the coast guard said in an email. "A boom was placed inside the engine room to contain and collect the sheening. The exterior sheen dissipated."

The coast guard said an inspection Tuesday by a Transport Canada aircraft found no sign of oil pollution.

Transport Canada did not respond to requests for an interview.

The huge ship, a former Great Lakes freighter, was being towed by a tug to a scrapyard in Turkey when it broke free of its tow line in rough seas and ran aground on Scatarie Island on Sept. 20.

About 10,000 litres of marine diesel oil, lubricants and oily waste water have been recovered from the vessel.

On the weekend, the coast guard said the vessel was largely intact, but there are several large holes on the starboard side.

Efforts to remove the ship have failed and the provincial government has filed a statement of claim seeking compensation from the tug's owner for the costs of salvage and any environmental cleanup.

The provincial government has filed documents with the Federal Court indicating that the cost of salvage and cleanup could hit $24 million if the ship breaks up.

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