Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bridgewater's, Nova Scotia, sinking Cormorant subject of $1M legal battle

Ex-navy diving vessel centre of court case over cost of refloating it

By Richard Cuthbertson, CBC News Posted: Apr 29, 2015 3:57 PM AT Last Updated: Apr 29, 2015 8:17 PM AT
A plan is being crafted to salvage a flooded and badly listing former navy diving vessel in Bridgewater, N.S., but a legal battle is brewing over who will pay for it all.

The Cormorant began tipping severely in March after being overloaded with snow. The starboard side is leaning against a jetty owned by the Port of Bridgewater, the hull is resting on the bottom of the LaHave River, and tidal waters are flowing through the ship.

The salvage effort could cost more than $1 million, according to Joe Spears, who heads Horseshoe Bay Marine Group, the Vancouver-based company coordinating the work.
"At the moment she's not a disaster and we don't want to make her a disaster," said Mark Sloan, the salvage coordinator for Horseshoe Bay Marine Group.

"It's a slow deliberate process. If we rush it, there is the danger of a capsize. We don't want that."

The Canadian Coast Guard issued a notice last month that the vessel owner needed to respond to the situation to make sure pollutants on board don't contaminate the river. It says an order it issued has been obeyed.

Canadian law dictates that the polluter pays for the response.

The problem in the case of the Cormorant is it's not clear who owns the vessel and that dispute has landed in the Federal Court of Canada.

The Coast Guard says it considers Rick Welsford, president of the Port of Bridgewater, the "authorized representative" of the vessel owners.

The port, however, has now filed a statement of claim against a Texas company that allegedly bought the vessel in 2009, but owes $60,000 in back fees.

Mayor David Walker just wants it gone.

"My real frustration is I've seen the plans that the Port of Bridgewater have to the future of the port. I think they're excellent, I think it's wonderful if they come to fruition. The frustrating part is this is taking a long time," he said.

Moored at marina since 2000

The port is suing Neil Hjelle and his company Cormorant Marine Services, claiming it is responsible for paying the salvage costs.

The Cormorant has been moored at the marina since 2000 and has changed hands several times after it was decommissioned by the Canadian Navy in 1997.

Naval architect are devising a plan to safely pump out water and refloat the vessel, without risking it capsizing the other direction and sinking in the middle of the LaHave.

Horseshoe Bay Marine has been hired to oversee the work and the Canadian Coast Guard is monitoring the effort as there are concerns the diesel fuel and other light oil that remains on board could contaminate the river if released.


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