With a colourful past reaching back to the 1940s, the MV Florence Filberg’s useful days officially ended late in 2007 when the vessel drifted aground in Sooke Harbour.
There it languished in the shadow of the East Sooke shore while any and all attempts to compel the owner to deal with it were unsuccessful.
Arsonists lit up the tug in July of 2009, reducing the size of the hulk but not its nuisance value as the hull remained – a blight on the seascape and a potential hazard to navigation.
Today all remnants of the ill-fated Florence Filberg are gone. – disposed of by a contractor named Heavy Metal Marine, the same outfit that built Sooke’s marine boardwalk on the other side of the harbour and its adjoining walkway up to Ed Macgregor Park.
This development is a resolution to an issue that had dogged the district since a stormy night in 2007. The municipal government, apparently not technically responsible for the disposal, had appealed to provincial and federal agencies to no avail. Local Member of Parliament Dr. Keith Martin took up the cause, pointing to a large number of similar vessel abandonments in area waters and calling for something to be done about them.
Neither the related provincial nor federal ministries acknowledged any liability in regard to the Filberg at the time. They were both contacted again at the end of February for clarification and a spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Natural Resource Operations stated the ministry: “Has jurisdiction to remove abandoned vessels tied to wharves or pilings on Crown land. In the case of beached, grounded or sunken vessels, Transport Canada or the provincial government can take action if the vessel is deemed to be abandoned or a wreck.
“The two key factors in whether or not we’re going to go in a deal with it, are whether it’s an environmental threat or a navigable hazard,” said communications officer David Curry.
No more had been heard from Transport Canada as of press time but it’s likely both provincial and federal bodies had distanced themselves from the matter.
Fast forward to the “good news story” related to the Sooke News Mirror by Sooke District Chief Administrative Officer Evan Parliament on February 23.
“Heavy Metal Marine is currently removing the Florence Filberg as we speak,” the email began.
The CAO went on to describe the operation as the result of an “innovative and collaborative approach” in which the district was able to “capture the project by leveraging economies as part of the public boat launch request for proposals.”
Elisabeth Nelson and Al Fontes of Sooke’s engineering department were pleased to describe the process as timely, fortuitous… and legal. It seems, in fact, that by not rushing ahead with a clean-up operation estimated to have carried a six figure price tag a couple of years ago, and eventually tying it in with a separate project, the district, the contractor, and everyone who had been irritated by the sight of the wrecked tug… come out ahead.
Evan Parliament summed it up as follows:
“The original estimate was pegged at $125,000. We obtained a quote from Heavy Metal Marine two years ago. The current Filberg removal job will cost $100,000 as per the works and services agreement signed with HMM to build the public boat launch. That contract was for $1.1M that included required DFO remedial works in the harbour. The District of Sooke and DFO negotiated those remedial works to be the removal of the Filberg. The $100,000 (Filberg) is part of the $1.1M boat launch project.”