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Bennington Group threatens to walk away from MV Miner venture
SYDNEY — A salvage company is threatening to walk away from the MV Miner after the province requested more details about its safety plan.
The province issued a stop-work order last week after concerns were raised over the structural integrity of the ship’s hull, forcing New York-based Bennington Group to hire an independent engineer to produce a safety report on the salvage plan.
Although Bennington Group believes the report is complete, the province has requested further information.
“I’m pretty sure (the premier) and his engineering team have come to a conclusion that it is not safe because they might have a safer plan. So if they can share this safe plan with me, I’ll see if I could carry that out,” said Abe Shah, Bennington Group’s chief operating officer.
“Maybe what is missing from that is a mermaid safety plan endorsed by Poseidon. I requested that from my engineers and my engineers told me something like that would not be based on facts and it is going to be hearsay. I have told them that none of the (provincial) conclusions so far have been based on facts.”
Bennington Group had entered into a joint venture with MV Miner owner Arivina Navigation SA of Turkey to remove the wreck from Scatarie Island for the cost of its scrap metal.
Provincial involvement has previously amounted to a series of permits allowing the salvage to begin in a wilderness protected area.
However, the stop-work order the province issued is the latest in a long list of delays Shah has cited that have pushed the beginning of the salvage from its original July 10 start.
“I’m an American company and all the way to the border I’ll be listening because in America we do believe in logic, that one logic will prevail. But I’ll be listening all the way to the border. But once I cross that line I’m only coming back legally.”
Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday he was unaware of Bennington’s threat to walk away from the project.
“I think Mr. Shah just needs to take a look at the opportunity that is there for his company and to ensure that the thing is done safely and co-operatively with the regulatory authorities,” Dexter said during a press conference.
“We want to see it cleaned up. That’s the agreement that was made with the Bennington Group, which is that they would get it done, but it has to be done safely. We are not going to put at risk the lives of workers on that vessel to have it done.”
A statement issued late Tuesday, Labour Minister Marilyn More said Bennington has been aware of government’s requirements for the salvage “since Day 1.”
More said staff worked through the night to review the independent engineering assessment after receiving it Monday afternoon.
“There are some items that require further clarification and submission by the employer. Once our concerns have been adequately addressed, the stop-work order will be lifted.
“It would be unfortunate if Bennington walked away at this point after many attempts by government to work with them to get this work done in a safe and timely manner.”
Shah said Bennington is being pushed away by a provincial government that has done nothing but hinder the company’s efforts
He also reiterated a past complaint that floatables had not been removed from the MV Miner, even though the province paid another company $300,000 to do so.
Shah estimated that to date Bennington Group has spent $500,000 on the attempted salvage. He said they will investigate recovering that expense-related money through an attorney.
Dexter said there is currently no Plan B if Bennington walks away.
“The fact of the matter is we are cleaning up a mess that was caused as result of poor federal regulation,” Dexter said. “The vessel should never have been allowed to be towed in the state that it was, so the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia end up dealing with something that is a result of actions that were beyond the control of anyone here.”
Meanwhile, the Main-a-Dieu Community Development Association said it is frustrated but not surprised by the latest setback.
“Earlier this month, with the writing clearly on the wall, our association wrote to the province urging consideration of options for a post-Bennington Plan B,” the group said in a press release.
“To date, the province has worked assiduously to fill the breach left by the Transport Canada’s abject failure to acknowledge its past role and current responsibilities. Given its demonstrated commitment to our community and environment, we urge the province not to turn its back on us now, but rather to double-down on efforts to prevent the damage, disruption and danger certain to be caused by the vessel’s final breakup.”