Concern over fate of retired ferry moored near major shellfish grounds

Concern over old ferry

Seeing the decommissioned Queen of Burnaby ferry moored off Union Bay on Vancouver Island has raised eyebrows in the community.

There have been “a ton of emails and phone calls from concerned residents,” said Daniel Arbour, area director for the Comox Valley Regional District.

He said the ship, which used to sail on B.C. Ferries’ Comox-Powell River route, is moored next to a former log-sorting operation, where it appears that the company Deep Water Recovery is looking to start deconstruction of old vessels.

Arbour said the fact that the site abuts Baynes Sound, the major shellfish area on the west coast, is raising environmental concerns.

B.C. Ferries president and chief executive Mark Collins said the Queen of Burnaby has been for sale for recycling since it was retired from the fleet in 2017, and the company is currently evaluating proposals to recycle the ship “with companies that follow all safety and environmental recycling procedures and legislation.”

In a statement, Collins said an agreement with a company is expected soon, and in the meantime, the vessel was moved by tug from B.C. Ferries’ Fleet Maintenance Unit in Richmond to temporary moorage in Union Bay to make way for other vessels needing service.

Collins said arrangements have been made with a company for periodic inspections of the ferry.

“Decommissioning old vessels is an essential part of moving to a cleaner and more modern ferry system,” he said.

Mark Jurisich, manager of Canadian operations for Deep Water Recovery, told CHEK News it has “a very stringent” environmental plan that includes removal of all hydrocarbons before vessels arrive. “The barges obviously don’t have anything on them.”

Arbour said the CVRD is looking for more information on what Deep Water Recovery is planning.

“Our view at the regional district is they really need to apply for rezoning or a temporary-use permit for this type activity.”

He said he would like to see some sort of public presentation or perhaps a public hearing “for residents tn weigh the pros and cons.”

There are some facilities on B.C.’s coast that recycle vessels “but it’s still a bit of a new sector and there’s going to be a lot of growth probably over the coming years,” Arbour said.

“Obviously there’s been a huge push by the federal and provincial governments to clean up the coast, and also to stop sending ships abroad for deconstruction.”

Both levels of government are trying to “encourage the capacity” to look after Canada’s own recycling of ships, he said.

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