Thursday, February 21, 2013

A hasty salvage, perhaps...?

So I’m reading an update in today’s Chronicle Herald (Halifax, NS) which details how rather than waiting for ‘the government’ to mount a salvage and recovery mission, local skippers have volunteered the services of their own vessels, as well as some volunteer divers. They are by all accounts currently heading out to the still-floating hulk of the Miss Ally to undertake their own salvage operation.

Again, I can understand how emotions can drive people to do things which are best left in the hands of those more savvy and qualified. I don’t know how big the vessel is which intends to salvage the Miss Ally, but they had better ensure that if she turns into a giant anchor, she doesn’t carry them down to Davey Jones’ locker with her. Salvage and recovery is a very specific field of endeavor and requires expert knowledge if it is to be carried out safely and successfully. It is not something that just anyone can try their hand at. It’s not simply a matter of lassoing a floating hulk and towing it back to land behind you.

As for those intent on diving the wreck for bodies, notwithstanding the fact that the Miss Ally is a fairly small boat (or maybe because she is…), if those divers are not trained in this field, or at the very least as clearance divers, then they are endangering themselves as well. This might be seen as ‘courageous’ or ‘noble’ by some, but it is in fact simple stupidity which is bound to end badly for all concerned. Salvage is an enterprise which must be approached with a great deal of knowledge, experience and forethought. Again, it is a risky business carried out in an even riskier environment.

I hope for all concerned that this turns out well, but there is a very lengthy track record of dismal failure, when it comes to those whose impatience goads them to “take matters into their own hands”.


Pressure mounts to salvage N.S. fishing boat

February 21, 2013 - 12:17pm By ALISON AULD The Canadian Press

UPDATED 3:01 p.m. Thursday

WOODS HARBOUR, N.S. — The RCMP have asked the Defence Department for help as the Mounties face mounting pressure from a Nova Scotia community demanding the recovery of a capsized boat that could contain the bodies of five young fishermen.

An RCMP spokesman in Woods Harbour, said Thursday the Mounties are now waiting for approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia's representative in the federal cabinet.

But some in the community were not content to wait any longer.

The father of one of the missing fishermen said a private boat with four divers aboard left from the Halifax area to find the capsized 13-metre boat.

"So we've decided we don't want to wait any longer,'' said George Hopkins. This boat could sink. There's nothing guaranteed and it's afloat right now, so we're going to search for it.''

He said other fishermen near his home in Woods Harbour were also getting ready to join the search for the Miss Ally, which flipped over in rough seas Sunday night. One fishing boat, the Lady Faith, left Thursday afternoon from the area.

"We're not forcing anybody's hand to do it,'' he said in an interview. "I've had lots of calls from people wanting to do it.''

Hopkins, whose son Joel was aboard the vessel, says the community can't wait for the RCMP or the military to take action because the partially submerged boat could sink at any time.

Federal search and rescue officials have said it was up to the RCMP to decide what to do because the case was handed to the Mounties when the search for the men was called off Tuesday.

Maj. Martell Thompson, spokesman for the military's Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, said a military aircraft has been dispatched to the area to determine whether the Miss Ally was still afloat.

The military confirmed that the boat's upturned yellow hull was last spotted by the coast guard on Wednesday afternoon.

Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau, a former fisherman who represents the area, says he has approached federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield to determine whether a salvage operation is feasible.

"I asked him to consult with his cabinet colleagues and review his options,'' he said in Woods Harbour. "I am just bringing the concerns of the community to him.''

Erin Filliter, a spokeswoman for Ashfield, said the RCMP was in charge of the file.

"We do leave this type of decision-making to experts,'' she said. "Currently this is an RCMP investigation, so at this time it would be led by the RCMP.''

Pastor Phil Williams at the Calvary United Baptist church in Lower Woods Harbour said the community has rallied behind the families' call for a salvage operation.

"I would venture to say that if you took a poll you would have 110 per cent,'' he said in an interview. "(We) want Miss Ally brought up at all costs, expense, whatever. It's essential for peace and closure.''

Pierre Murray, regional manager of operations for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said a team of investigators arrived in Woods Harbour on Wednesday.

Murray said they plan to review communications between the crew and family members, friends and search and rescue officials.

Hopkins has said he was in touch with the crew shortly before its water-activated emergency locator beacon went off just after 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Miss Ally was on an extended halibut fishing trip when it ran into heavy weather — 10-metre seas and winds approaching hurricane strength.

Murray said the safety board's investigators will also look at the boat's stability assessments, construction and inspections as well as the crew's experience and training. The vessel was built in 2006 and had to be inspected every five years.

"We're going to try to find out what was going on, what type of weather they were experiencing, if the boat was damaged or if it was taking on water,'' he said from Halifax.

"The difficulty is that we don't have a boat and we don't have survivors, so what we can do is try to get as much as we can right now.''

Murray said the independent agency once recovered a small fishing boat from the bottom of the Bay of Fundy to help with their investigation into a sinking that claimed four lives. But he stressed that conditions were more favourable then.

"It was a bit different from going out there in the open sea and trying to recover a boat,'' he said.

In January 2004, the 9.7-metre Lo-Da-Kash, based in Maces Bay, N.B., was heading back from Campobello Island when it sank with four people on board. The Transportation Safety Board conducted a dive on the vessel in May 2004 and it was raised to the surface four months later and towed to shore.

With files from Michael MacDonald

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