NS: Nova Scotia, Ottawa share in delay of ship's removal, says lawyer

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By Jane Gerster, The Canadian Press

Christopher Conohan, who represents New York-based Bennington Group, says the company has experienced issues with both levels of government when it comes to getting work started on the stranded MV Miner.

Submitted by the Nova Scotia Environment Department

[HALIFAX, NS] — The lawyer for the company in charge of dismantling a ship that's been stranded off Cape Breton for almost a year says both the federal and provincial governments share in the responsibility for the project's delays.

Christopher Conohan said New York-based Bennington Group has experienced issues with both levels of government when it comes to getting the work started on the MV Miner.

"The difficulty is that there is no one authority to deal with," Conohan said from Sydney, N.S.

The vessel ran aground on Scaterie Island on Sept. 20, 2011, while being towed to a scrapyard in Turkey.

Removal of the 230-metre bulk carrier was expected to start this week after more than a month of delays, but so far, there's been no progress.

The provincial government has been pushing for the federal government to accept responsibility for removing the vessel, but Premier Darrell Dexter has said that nobody wants the liability.

Dexter reiterated his position Thursday, telling reporters that Ottawa continues to refuse taking responsibility for the dismantling of the derelict ship.

He said the provincial government is doing everything it can do to facilitate the vessel's removal, but stressed the work is not within Nova Scotia's jurisdiction.

"We provide the licensing that allows it to get done, but we don't do it," he said. "We are left to try and facilitate ... cleanup."

Celine Gaudet, a spokeswoman for Transport Canada, said the MV Miner is the responsibility of the Bennington Group.

"Transport Canada has no authority to require the vessel to move from its current location as it does not pose a significant hazard to navigation," she said in an email.

The Bennington Group's provincial authority to remove the ship is set to expire at the end of this month.

A spokesman for the province's Natural Resources Department said Wednesday that the company reaffirmed its commitment to the project this week.

However, Dan Davis said the government has yet to see a revised work plan.

The company has said the next step is to conduct a pre-demolition site survey. Dexter said Thursday he believes that work will be carried out next week and a timeline for full demolition will follow.

But Conohan said the company can't conduct the survey without a representative from both the provincial and federal governments — something he said has been difficult to secure.

He said the Bennington Group will not start dismantling the ship until both Nova Scotia and Ottawa have signed off on pre-existing site conditions.

Conohan said the company's insurance group requires the site appraisal to make sure neither level of government attempts to pin any "environmental mess" on them after the ship's removal.

Environment Canada removed fuel and contaminated water from the ship shortly after it ran aground. The provincial and federal governments also worked together to remove other contaminants on the ship, including asbestos-laden material and a transformer containing PCBs.

Conohan said any additional problems have to be ruled out, since the Bennington Group will have full responsibility for the site once they start.

Organizations: Bennington Group, Transport Canada, Natural Resources Department Environment Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Cape Breton Sydney Scaterie Island Turkey

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