Derelicts: making the best of a rotten deal
It’s dirty work – but someone’s got to do it!
Following our article titled “Forward Thinking Can Stop The Rot” in the December 2016 issue we’ve regrettably been busy ridding some of our waterways of unwanted squatters.
Trinity Inlet in Cairns and Wynnum Creek near Brisbane were among the waterways that had, over many years, become unwitting dumping grounds for abandoned vessels – elephants’ graveyards of vessels left to rot by owners who ran out of time, money or inclination to maintain them in a seaworthy condition.
In a typical scenario the owners of such boats, knowing they are in dire need of repair and vulnerable to the elements, take them to sheltered locations where they can be moored or anchored until they have the money to repair them. For whatever reason, the money never becomes available so the boats simply decay in situ, to the dismay and disgust of those in waterside communities who have to look at them every day.
The owners either ‘disappear’ or, when contacted by Maritime Safety Queensland to discharge their legal obligation to remove their vessels from the water, plead insufficient funds.
That leaves government trying to balance the wrath of waterside communities with the owners’ legal rights while respecting taxpayers’ expectations that their taxes will be spent wisely.
Maritime Safety Queensland does not have a discrete revenue stream to remove vessels when its avenues to compel owners to do so simply turn into cul-de-sacs. It has to be smart about how it tackles the problem – hence its clean-up campaign focusing on distinct locations over recent months.
“Our Regional Harbour Master in Cairns identified a number of vessels around Trinity Inlet that, within a limited budget, we could target and get the best bang for our limited bucks and make some inroads there,” said Maritime Safety Queensland’s General Manager, Patrick Quirk.
“And we have acted in the same way in Moreton Bay, where we have a well-known creek, Wynnum Creek, that has become a little magnet for people to take their derelict vessels to”.
“Using local contractors we recently saw five vessels removed from Trinity Inlet and five from Wynnum Creek at a total cost of just over $200,000. These vessels were at the smaller end of the scale, but others such as the Defender – a much larger vessel we had to remove from Ross Creek in Townsville – cost around $600,000”.
Maritime Safety Queensland continues to hold discussions with a variety of stakeholders to resolve this issue. While there are no easy or cheap solutions, ideally it would prefer that boat owners choose to act before their ageing vessels become a problem and while they are still manoeuvrable on the water – because the solutions become far more expensive when they are not.