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'Today's the day': Work begins to remove sunken sailboat in Saint John River

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A sunken sailboat in the Saint John River in Browns Flat, N.B., is finally in the process of being removed.

“Well, it's one of those things you're not sure whether it's ever going to happen,” admits resident Jim MacNeill. “But, I guess today's the day.”

Friday morning, a barge and crane made their way out to the sunken ship in hopes of getting it lifted high enough to pump out water and drag it to shore or a marina.

According to the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), a local salvage company assumed ownership and liability of the "Not a Starship" vessel on Thursday after providing a detailed plan to remove the boat from the water. Over the next week, the company will work to remove the sunken vessel from the water under the supervision of the CCG.

The file was originally under the scope of Transport Canada, but was transferred to the CCG as the lead department on June 11. In a statement to CTV Atlantic, Transport Canada says:

“The Canadian Coast Guard has informed Transport Canada that they plan to address the Not a Starship as a hazard under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act. Transport Canada will continue to collaborate with the Canadian Coast Guard and provide any expertise, guidance, or information needed as it works to have the vessel removed.”

Under the Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act, the cost to remove the ship would fall on the owner.

Resident Rob Thom has been following the "Not a Starship" saga since it began in the winter, when it froze into the ice before sinking to the rivers bottom in February. He says to finally see work being done to remove the vessel is a long time coming.

“It was kind of a circus with everybody pointing fingers at everybody else,” Thom says. “It's not the most visible thing out there and there's no visibility to it at night yet there's still boats going by. I understand they're going to take it out completely, so that'll be perfect.”

“It's ruining our waters of course, and these are the waters that the people here all the time are in boating,” a Browns Flat resident told CTV Atlantic, who was happy to finally see something being done about the sunken ship. “There's been no boats going up and down this river, or hardly any, just because of what's been going there with all those things sticking out of the water.”

Local MLA Bill Oliver says once the boat is removed, the waters will be much safer for travellers. He says he's excited to see action being taken two months after himself and MP John Williamson put out a joint call to have the sailboat removed.

While he has faith in the company working on removing the boat, he admits he does have some concerns about the process.

“They were worried about the problem of lifting it up and some of the contaminants possibly leaking out,” Oliver says in conversations with a local salvage company. “And certainly the volume of water that flows through the Saint John River is a factor that I don't know that we've actually taken into account. To think that there's any contaminants that could get in the water system is a concern.”

Oliver says the boat's removal will not only make the river safer, but reduce the risk of further pollution in the water.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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