10/17/2011 11:15 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

Nova Scotia premier says no one wants responsibility for stranded ship

HALIFAX - Premier Darrell Dexter says no one wants to be responsible for a badly damaged ship that's been stranded off Nova Scotia for nearly a month.

Dexter has been pushing the federal government to accept responsibility for the MV Miner, which ran aground off Cape Breton on Sept. 20 while being towed to a scrapyard in Turkey.

But on Monday, he conceded it's a job no one's particularly keen to take on.

"We're in the same boat the federal government's in — nobody wants to sign up for liability," Dexter said Monday at an unrelated news conference attended by federal Environment Minister Peter Kent.

"You have a boat that's owned by a company incorporated in the Marshall Islands that has no assets other than that boat. So we don't have anybody to go after."

The 230-metre bulk carrier now sits on Scatarie Island, a provincial wilderness management area. All attempts to pull the former Great Lakes freighter off the rocks have failed, and the ship has become increasingly damaged by rough seas.

Dexter has said the province is the innocent victim of a towing mishap and shouldn't be responsible for the wreck.

He said Monday that discussions continue with Ottawa to resolve outstanding issues, including how and when the vessel can be cut up and removed from the area.

The ongoing talks have been a sore spot for Dexter, who has criticized the federal government as being elusive and noncommittal when it comes to the freighter.

Kent said issues of responsibility and liability are still being debated.

"My colleagues in Fisheries and Transport are certainly engaged with the premier and the province with finding proper solutions and remedies," said Kent, who was in Halifax to sign a joint agreement with Dexter to designate Sable Island as a national park.

"We recognize there is an issue that needs to be resolved."

Kent said he was pleased with Environment Canada's removal of fuel and contaminated water from the vessel shortly after it ran aground.

Dexter also said some agreement was reached with federal officials Thursday surrounding the removal of other contaminants on the vessel. They include asbestos-laden material and a transformer containing PCBs.

He said details of the agreement were still being worked out but he was satisfied with the progress.

Still, Dexter warned Ottawa there's plenty left to be resolved, particularly when it comes to the salvage of the vessel.

"We have significant questions with respect to when the weather will allow that to happen as we are heading into some of the worst periods of the year for weather, particularly off of Cape Breton," said Dexter, glancing sideways at Kent.

"We're working as diligently as we can to resolve all those issues."

Dexter said it might be time to look at whether stronger legislation is needed to protect coastlines in similar accidents.