Thursday, October 6, 2011

Miner a Goner

The premier of Nova Scotia needs advice. He is quoted on news reports that he is getting involved in the grounded laker Miner on Scatarie Island, and is consulting the Irvings.

Let's get some facts on the table:

1. The ship's owners and the towing company are responsible, and their salvage/wreck removal plan must be approved by the federal government. This wreck is and always will be subject to federal responsibility and oversight.
Granted the feds are doing a lousy job of communication on this one - more later, but it is "their baby."

2. I have no idea why the Premier would be talking to the Irvings! With all due respect they are not salvors. They are shipbuilding and tug operators, they have naval architects and marine engineers, but that does not make them experienced salvagers. That is a specialised activity, and membership in the International Salvage Union would be one of the first requirements to be considered a salvor.
Their own barge Irving Sealion sat on the bottom 30 years until the Feds hired Donjon to haul it up and give it back to them. Don't ask about the Scotiadock II.

3. Mammoet, the salvors engaged by the ship's interests, raised the Kursk (the most difficult wreck removal in history!) and have salvaged scores of ships-including cutting up in place - the Preem should look at their website.

4. Perhaps he is reacting out of frustration over the feds lack of proper communication on this. If so I sympathize. Despite urgings over many years the feds have refused to create the SOSREP (Secretary Of States's REPrepresentative) that the UK has. This person can mobilize all departments in the case of a marine emergency. One of the first things he usually does is establish a communications centre to ensure that the populous knows what is going on. It cuts out a lot of misinformation and speculation, and cuts the legs out from under a lot of misinformed politicians and reporters.
SOSPREP also creates a command centre where reps of all departments that might be involved - Coast Guard, Fisheries, environment, provincial, municipal, military - you name it, are brought together and communicate between themselves to get whatever job done.
SOSPREP can move mountains when necessary.
The Feds need to get their act together on this one.
If the Premier will take my advice he should pressure the feds to set up the command and communication structure that is needed in this and similar cases.

5. This is not a major shipwreck. Yes it's a big ship, but there are no huge hazards involved. Yes there is significant ballast sludge to get out, and they better do that PDQ, but from CBC photos today, there is little doubt that the ship will never leave the shore in one piece.
What needs to be done is to get the wreck removal plan publicized to reassure everyone that as little damage will be done to the environment as possible. And yes it may not be until next spring that the wreck can be removed. Look up New Carissa sometime and see how long that one took.

There will be worse shipwrecks in Nova Scotia waters (there have been several over the years) and what better opportunity is there for the feds to do this one right so that there will be some skills and policies in effect for the next one.

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