An aerial photo of two ships being broken apart in Union Bay with the words "Still? Really?" overtop.

Photo Credit: Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound / Comox Valley Record

Union Bay Shipbreaker Doesn’t Seem to Give a Ship

It has become an international embarrassment for BC

Isn’t this illegal?

Shipbreaking continues in Union Bay in violation of current zoning, and residents are getting frustrated.

Deep Water Recovery (DWR) started busting apart ships in 2020 on a shoreline property at 5084 Island Highway South. Soon after, Union Bay citizens alerted the Comox Valley Regional District.

Staff investigated and found that shipbreaking is not allowed under the Industrial Marine (IM) zoning bylaw.

But that didn’t stop DWR, which is also violating the forest ministry’s foreshore lease. A deadline for the company to apply for a zoning amendment has come and gone.

In a statement, the CVRD says it is now “pursuing legal action to see the shipbreaking use cease on this property.”

Unless done in a tightly controlled and regulated manner, shipbreaking is a dirty and polluting activity that can release a host of toxins into the ocean. Unfortunately, nobody knows what kind of environmental controls DWR has in place, or if they have any at all.

Residents are not impressed with the company or the province’s weak response.

“He’s (Mark Jurisich, manager of DWR) in clear violation and non-compliance of the FLNRO (B.C. Forests Ministry) foreshore lease, and the CVRD bylaws,” said Ray Rewcastle of the Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound (CCOBS), in a recent Black Press story. “He’s blatantly in violation, and yet nobody’s doing anything about it.”

Rewcastle is equally unimpressed with BC Ferries. Currently, four vessels are beached in the intertidal zone, and three are anchored. One of them is the Queen of Burnaby, which was taken out of service in 2017. BC Ferries claims it’s only beached there temporarily.

“With our vessel refit season coming to a close, more space is available at BC Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond,” BC Ferries said in a recent statement.

“As a result, the Queen of Burnaby will be relocating back to the facility while we actively evaluate options for recycling the ship that comply and follow all safety and environmental procedures, regulations, and legislation.”

This illegal shipbreaking activity is becoming an international embarrassment for BC.

In January, Shipbreaking Platform, a Belgium-based NGO, sent a letter to the province and Ottawa. The letter stated that “the landing of vessels onto shores that are unable to contain the many hazardous materials onboard and embedded within the ships’ structures, as currently happening at Union Bay, is a sustainable or acceptable way of recycling ships.”  

Baynes Sound is home to a vital shellfish aquaculture sector that contributes millions of dollars to the local economy. It also supports dozens of local jobs. Hundreds of private homes are also located on the Sound.