Saturday, April 29, 2006

BC Ferries Walks Away from Spill, Heads Towards Bank

The latest report from the field indicates that BC Ferries has decided to let mother nature take care of the Queen of the North oil spill, even though diesel is said to still be leaking from the wreck at the rate of 1-4 litres per hour. Also, even though the Transportation Safety Board is preparing to send another mini-submarine down to the wreck, this latest mission will not have an environmental component.

Meanwhile, the BC Ferry Commissioner, Martin Crilly, has allowed BC Ferries to declare the sinking of the QOTN a situation involving force majeure. The practical effect of this designation allows the ferry company to collect about $45,000 per day in subsidies for the QOTN ferry route until May 18, even though the ferry is 1200 feet below the surface of the ocean. Press reports estimate that in total BC Ferries will collect $2.5 million as a result of this administrative decision. Presumably, if an inquiry eventually determines that criminal negligence was involved in the sinking, then the money would have to be returned, under the well known common law principle that a criminal must not profit from his crimes. Also, one wonders whether all those businesses and individuals adversely affected by the disruption of service resulting from the sinking will be eligible for government compensation as well.

There is no word yet as to whether BC Ferries will be fined under Canadian marine environmental protection laws for unlawfully discharging oil into the marine environment, or whether an exemption will be granted here as well. Nor is it entirely clear who is paying for the oil spill cleanup costs, which already exceed one million dollars. One report from a source close to the scene seemed to indicate that the BC taxpayer was footing the bill, much as it did for the Fast Cat super ferry debacle a few years ago. So much for the polluter pays principle.

Stay tuned to this blog for continuous updates on this curious saga, which seems to take different twists and turns each day. Welcome to the whacky world of BC politics, where the ship of state is still in the hands of a man previously convicted for drunk driving. Call it "Tanker A on the Rocks", if you will.


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