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Boats eyesores, in the way

Abandoned boats are a growing problem in Port Moody, with the city's natural harbour now littered with as many as 15 to 20 derelict vessels, according to the Port Moody Power and Sail Squadron (PMPSS).

Abandoned boats are a growing problem in Port Moody, with the city's natural harbour now littered with as many as 15 to 20 derelict vessels, according to the Port Moody Power and Sail Squadron (PMPSS).

That's a hazard not only for boaters trying to navigate around drifting or half-submerged vessels but for the environment as well.

When a boat is abandoned in open water or in the tidal zone, it inevitably ends up on its side, upside down or taking on water from its hull, said Neil Wildman, a PMPSS bridge member. When that happens, oil, gas and lubricants leak into the inlet, along with garbage and items left in the boat.

"We get a lot of junk from those boats that comes ashore," Wildman said. "It seems to be a really common problem in the Port Moody area."

The source of the problem seems to be boaters who, for whatever reason, stop paying moorage fees or maintenance and, not knowing how else to dispose of their craft, either beach them or drop anchor and leave them.

"The boats get left there, then people see that it's been there a while and start stealing things from it," Wildman said.

By then, the vessels are worthless and are usually either scuttled by their owners, creating invisible navigation hazards in the harbour, or left sitting at anchor indefinitely.

Unlike a broken-down car or truck that can usually be sold for parts or scrap metal, there is little value in a boat once its engine and instruments have been flooded with corrosive sea water.

"Fiberglass is worth nothing," Wildman said. "It costs you to break it down, then you would have to dispose of it. There's no market for this stuff, so nobody does anything with it."

The squadron is calling on local and federal governments to impose a maximum length of time that boaters can anchor in the inlet before they have to move, similar to what's already in place in Vancouver's False Creek.

Transport Canada's receiver of wrecks, Bob Gowe, said the federal agency will only deal with abandoned vessels if they are obstructing the movement of other boats; otherwise, they are the responsibility of the local port authority or the municipality if they've washed ashore.

The Metro Vancouver Port Authority's COO, Chris Badger, said abandoned boats are a worsening problem both in Vancouver harbour and along the B.C. coast. Removal is expensive, he said, and boat owners expect taxpayers to foot the bill.

tcoyne@tricitynews.com