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Derelict 'Sun Sea' migrant ship removed from Nanaimo harbour

Sep 02 2012

A derelict ship used to carry 492 Tamil migrants to Canada in deplorable conditions two years ago has finally been removed from the Nanaimo harbour.

The boarding and seizing of the MV Sun Sea by RCMP on Aug. 13, 2010, ignited a debate on human smuggling that split Parliament along party lines.

A total of 492 Sri Lankan Tamils were found living in filth after the three-month journey across the Pacific. After the vessel was boarded off the coast of B.C., Nanaimo Shipyard got the federal contract to store the vessel for Canada Border Services Agency while the investigation into human smuggling proceeded.

In August, that contract ran out. The boat was moved to a facility operated by Public Works and Government Services Canada on Annacis Island.

The agency was unable to provide vessel storage costs to date but said taxpayers paid $40,000 to tow it to Richmond.

Information on the status of the RCMP human smuggling investigation could not be obtained at press time.

The sight of the derelict 59-metre vessel rusting where it was moored in Newcastle Channel won't be missed by Rusty Kostka, the live-in caretaker at Nanaimo Yacht Club.

"It was definitely an eyesore," said Kostka.

He saw see the vessel clearly every day from the dock.

"I honestly didn't think it would be moved. You think: 'It's government, it's there for who knows how long?'" He noticed the vessel missing from its mooring place Aug. 24.

It took the entire day to tow it to Annacis Island.

The vessel was moved when the federal storage contract in Nanaimo expired. The government will soon decide what to do with the rusting hulk.

"In terms of the next step, CBSA is going to begin a process of arranging for final disposal of the vessel," said Stefanie Wudel, Canada Border Services spokeswoman.

The vessel's hull is still in good shape, "so eventually you'll see it scrapped," said Nanaimo Shipyard owner Ron van Wachem.

Migrants on board the ship were said to be treated more like cargo than people, living in squalid conditions, when officers boarded the ship two years ago.

In February, a federal court approved the sale of the 56-metre MV Ocean Lady, seized in October 2009 with 76 Tamil migrants aboard, for $35,000, despite an appraised value of $500,000.

She had also been berthed at Annacis Island.

DBellaart@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4235

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