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Local MP, MLA call on federal government to remove sunken vessel in Saint John River


Driving along the Saint John River in the Browns Flat, N.B., area, it’s hard not to notice something sticking out of the water.

It’s the mast of the approximately 13-metre long vessel known as “Not a Starship,” which hasn’t moved from its location for months. The ship had been frozen into the ice during the winter months, before sinking into the river in February.

With the boating season quickly approaching, John Williamson, member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, and Bill Oliver, member of the legislative assembly for Kings Centre, are calling on the federal government for the immediate removal of the ship in a joint statement.

“I’ve done some research across the country with respect to abandon vessels and it can sometimes take the federal government a very long time to act,” Williamson told CTV Atlantic over Zoom. “We don’t need for the federal government to study this, to consult on it and then render a decision either the end of this year or into a future year, we need the sailboat removed immediately.”

“It is a navigation hazard,” points out Oliver. “Also we are worried about the impact on the environment because it does have batteries on it and diesel oil. The gentlemen who owned it planned to stay on it through the winter but we saw what happened, you can’t fool Mother Nature.”

The owner of the now wrecked ship was given until April 30 to remove the boat, and Williamson says he would fully support the government charging the owner for the cost of removing the ship. That being said, he along with Oliver aren’t looking to point blame or fight over who is responsible for the next steps, but want to see them taken as soon as possible.

In February, the Canadian Coast Guard conducted an assessment of the vessel and told CTV Atlantic the sunken ship did not pose a risk in terms of pollution damage.

The matter is now in the hands of Transport Canada, and those who use the waterway want a conclusion to this issue sooner than later.

“Boating season is getting underway,” says Denise Miller, communications director for the Saint John Power Boat Club. “We’re coming up on the long weekend of May, the traffic on the river is going to pick up and the mast sticking out of the water like that it’s a terrible navigation hazard.”

Miller says boaters have been monitoring the status of the vessel for months, and it’s frustrating to see little done to this point as authorities have known about the sailboat for some time.

It won’t be long until the river is filled with boaters enjoying the water, and she worries about someone running into the wreck, especially at night when visibility is lower.

Most locals are aware of the ship, but Miller worries for those who aren’t as familiar with the ship’s status.

“They come up from the United States to our river system, they might not be aware of this saga,” Miller says. “It’s something that is a hazard and is staining our beautiful river system.”

Williamson also shares those concerns.

“Even on a pleasant day, charts and maps that boaters use will often indicate hazards,” Williamson says. “A vessel like this is not going to be on any current charts. This is a problem and if the boat is broken up and someone collides with it the mess is just going to become that much worse.”

Oliver says if given the green light by the federal government, he has locals willing and ready to help get the ship removed once and for all.

“From talking to a local dive team, they can take it out of the water quite easily and move it,” Oliver claims. “They have all the equipment and the wherewithal to do that so it certainly could be done within a couple of days.”

CTV Atlantic reached out to Transport Canada for an update on the situation, and is still awaiting a response. 

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