Bay Roberts, N.L. to bid bye-bye to rusting ships

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Ottawa to pay $1.6 million to scrap abandoned Lithuanian fishing vessels

Bay Roberts, N.L. to bid bye-bye to rusting ships

By Dave Bartlett


Donna Bishop's birthday is not until October, but she got an early present from the federal government on Monday, Aug. 11.

Two rusting Lithuanian fishing vessels, moored right behind her bar at the Small Crafts Harbour in Bay Roberts, N.L. will finally be towed away around the same time she blows out the candles on her cake. "We got a beautiful deck overlooking the water, and we have the lower deck besides that and when people come out and look at (the harbour) all they see is rusty boats," says Bishop. "I'm glad to see them go."

The boats, the FV Sekme and the FV Treimani, have been at the wharf since 2000 and 2001 respectively.

In 2002, the crews of the boats abandoned them.They had been living on the vessels for as long as 15 months, waiting to be paid by the owners.

The vessels were seized by Canada in 2006.

On Monday, Avalon MP Fabian Manning announced $1.6 million to have the rusted hulks towed to Port Colborne, Ont., where they will be scrapped by Marine Recycling Corp. "Removing the two abandoned vessels will eliminate any further potential for environmental or safety hazards and, naturally, it will free up space at the wharf," said Manning. "The time has come to remove these eyesores."

The day was overcast but Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn said he hoped to do a jig on the wharf on Thanksgiving weekend. "This has been a long time coming," said Littlejohn. "There isn't a day ... that someone doesn't come by and say 'Glenn, when are those vessels going?'"

Manning said a tender for the removal of the vessels was awarded last week.

Another option was to sink the ships at sea. "While somebody may determine the vessels environmentally friendly enough to dump at sea, I don't think that either one of those vessels look environmentally friendly to the naked eye," Manning said.

Wayne Russell, president of the Bay Roberts Harbour Authority, said the vessels have restricted economic activity because the boats take up a whole side of the wharf.

The wharf will also have to be repaired once they go. "To see them boats gone, well, hopefully it will make quit a bit of difference," said Russell. "We thought a couple or three years ago it was going to be done but it's a very slow process going through government regulations," he said.

The regional director of small craft harbours for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it was a last resort for Canada to seize the vessels.

Bill Goulding said all legal avenues were pursued, including arrest warrants for the former owners. "The last thing the government wants to do is be a dumping ground ... for abandoned vessels," said Goulding.

Donna Bishop remembers the stranded sailors who didn't speak English very well. "It was sad, they were a wonderful crew," she said.

Bishop said they would come to her bar during the 15 months they lived on their vessels and she would bring them fish and moose burgers from time to time.

She even had a recent visit from one of the sailors. "I had a gentleman in just last week, he's on one of the other fishing boats now, and he actually cried. He said there was some really happy times out there, fishing on those boats and that he was really sad to see they were still (here)," she said. (Dave Bartlett is a journalist with Transcontinental Media’s Telegram, which is a contributor to the Sou’Wester.)

Organizations: Small Crafts Harbour, Marine Recycling, Bay Roberts Harbour Authority Department of Fisheries and Oceans Transcontinental Media

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, Ottawa, Canada Port Colborne

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