SYDNEY — Main-a-Dieu resident Sean Howard welcomed a provincial government announcement on Wednesday that it will issue a call for proposals for the removal of the derelict ship MV Miner, which has been hung up on the rocky shore of nearby Scatarie Island for two years.
© Steve Wadden - Cape Breton Post
A file photo shows a water-level view of the MV Miner, aground on Scatarie Island, with extensive structural damage on a large portion of the ship on Oct. 13, 2011. The 230-metre ship broke free from its tow vessel before coming to rest along the rocky island.
"I don't think we could expect anything more at this stage. We are tremendously relieved and encouraged that they seem to be moving so fast," said Howard, who as a spokesman for a local community development association has been a leader in the fight to have the derelict ship removed.
"Hopefully, the new government regards this as an issue whereby very visibly they can demonstrate they mean what they say, and when they say they are going to help a community in trouble, they are going to do it."
Howard said the provincial government obviously needs a response from the federal government, even though it is ready to take the initiative to get rid of the MV Miner.
Geoff MacLellan, the new Nova Scotia Liberal government's minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said on Wednesday the province will issue a request for proposals as soon as possible for the removal of the MV Miner from Scatarie Island, which is a provincially protected wilderness area.
The province will take the lead removing the MV Miner but is hoping there is a tie-in with federal jurisdiction so the cost could be shared, he said.
MacLellan didn't want to get ahead of negotiations with the federal government or remove any impetus for a federal contribution, but confirmed the province will — if necessary — cover the cost and then go after the federal contribution.
"We are hoping for a partnership and we are going to be the leaders and we are going to get this thing done." he said.
"It's on a provincially protected wildlife area so we have to get this thing removed. How we pay for it and the process we take is important but it's not the key priority; the key priority is the removal of the MV Miner."
MacLellan also wants to see federal shipping laws that protect Nova Scotia against a repeat of the MV Miner situation where a derelict ship lands off the coastline with no apparent protection for the nearby communities or the province.
He didn't know how long it will take to get rid of the MV Miner removed but said it should be as soon as possible.
"Obviously, there is another winter season coming, so the high seas in the Atlantic around Scatarie Island will continue to pound the MV Miner," he said. "If it continues to deteriorate, obviously it has environmental implications, it has financial implications and it won't bode well for the removal of this ship."
Estimates of the cost of removing the vessel are difficult to judge, given that they have ranged from between $3 million and $5 million on the low end, to $25 million on the high end, he said.
Howard said he has heard from locals who have been out for a look at the derelict vessel and it appears that more debris has come up onto the island. There are concerns that the removal could become more complicated if there is more structural damage, he said.
"This is one of the reasons we are encouraged but not overconfident at all, because there could still be things that make it a lot harder, and it is very hard to get a fix, therefore, on how much a salvage could cost.
Fishermen and other local residents living in Cape Breton coastal communities near Scatarie Island appealed to both the former NDP provincial government and the federal government without success for the removal of the derelict vessel, which has been breaking apart while being battered by the ocean.
A New York-based company attempted to salvage the MV Miner before walking away from the job, blaming government bureaucratic hurdles.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa told the Cape Breton Post in August that a decision will be made on the MV Miner in the coming months.
When questioned again earlier this month, Raitt wouldn't offer any comment as to whether the federal government is willing to cost-share the salvage effort, saying she had agreed to meet with Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg MLA Alfie MacLeod to discuss the crumbling bulk carrier.
Raitt said in that Oct. 18 interview she hadn't heard from Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil on the issue.