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Steveston Harbour Authority tries to kick out whale watching, fishing companies

The three companies claim it would be unfair for the harbour authority to enjoy improvements made to premises.
Steveston Harbour Authority is trying to kick out three companies and 11 ships for allegedly overstaying their welcome.

Steveston Harbour Authority (SHA) is trying to boot three companies and 11 ships off its property, claiming they were “routinely overdue” on rent and are not licensed to stay.

SHA started a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit in 2022 against Ridge Fishing, Orca Spirit Adventures, Cuda Marine Adventures, 11 ships and a Richmond man, Walter Cadwallader.

According to the lawsuit, Cadwallader was issued licences on behalf of Ridge Fishing to occupy a building, a storage locker and areas around two floats on its Trites Road premises in 2019 and 2020.

Ships belonging to Ridge Fishing, Orca Spirit Adventures and Cuda Marine Adventures are stored on the premises, along with two ex-coast guard ships whose owners are unknown.

The licences expressly require payment be made monthly in advance and in full, said SHA, and each licence may be cancelled by either party with 30 days’ written notice.

SHA informed Cadwallader in February 2021 that Ridge Fishing’s account was “regularly in arrears” and asked for all invoices to be paid within 30 days, otherwise, SHA would cancel the occupation licences.

Two days later, SHA acknowledged payment for “some of the outstanding account” for Ridge, but said there was still outstanding payment from as far back as November 2020.

Furthermore, one of the ships was moved to an area that did not allow vessel storage.

SHA gave Cadwallader notice in July that it would terminate the licence in 30 days and asked for all 11 ships to be removed by Sept. 30, 2021. It also asked for payment of $13,712.95 for outstanding charges.

All overdue amounts were finally repaid by the time SHA filed the lawsuit.

According to SHA, Cadwallader and/or Ridge Fishing were “routinely overdue on payments” for moorage of the ships and storage of the gear, and they only started to pay “in a timely manner” after SHA issued the letter asking them to remove their ships.

However, they continue to use the premises without valid licences, said SHA.

“The (ships) and associated gear remain at the (SHA’s) Property, and (Cadwallader) has informed the (SHA) there is no intention of removing the (ships) and/or associated gear from the (SHA’s) Property,” reads the lawsuit.

SHA argued the ships and the gear are trespassing on its property and they interfere with SHA’s ability to manage the harbour and issue moorage and storage licences to active commercial fishing vessels.

It asked the court to issue a permanent injunction to ban the ships and their gear from the premises and rule against the companies for trespass, nuisance and unjust enrichment.

Companies deny liability

In response to SHA’s lawsuit, Ridge Fishing, Orca Spirit Adventures and Cuda Marine Adventures claim they performed their duties under the agreements and SHA did not terminate or modify the agreements.

Their ships have used moorage at the Steveston Harbour dating back as far as 1976, according to the companies’ response.

They added they paid the invoices within a “reasonable” amount of time and SHA agreed to extend the deadlines noted on the face of the invoices.

They also denied having any control over the ex-coast guard ships and said Cadwallader was acting in his capacity as their employee and he never entered into agreements or contracts in his personal capacity.

The companies claim they invested in improving the building and floats for the past “several” decades, including adding furnishings and renovating the “bare, two story cinder brick building” and building a baiting hut on the floats.

Ridge Fishing also claimed it improved the locker by adding permanent storage fixtures.

According to the three companies, they were “encouraged and allowed” to develop their businesses at the harbour and invest in the building, storage locker and floats, and their businesses are “dependent on the continued and uninterrupted access” to the premises.

Companies accuse SHA of overcharging, contract breach

The three companies also filed a counterclaim against SHA, claiming for amounts they allegedly overpaid due to invoicing issues from SHA, and accusing SHA of breaching an agreement by not making temporary storage available when renovating a building the companies have used since 1985.

According to the counterclaim filed in March 2022, the three companies are also claiming for other amounts such as those they had paid but were allegedly not due to be paid according to their agreements with SHA, as well as the value of the improvements made to the buildings and the floats.

If they get removed from Steveston Harbour, said the companies, SHA would get to enjoy improved buildings without “juristic reason for such enrichment.”

The three companies sought an injunction order to prevent SHA from removing their possessions, as well as damages.

SHA denied the existence of invoicing issues and that any improvements were made to the buildings in question.

It argued it did not owe any amounts to the three companies and said Ridge Fishing, Orca Spirit Adventures and Cuda Marine Adventures do not have a valid licence of occupation at the moment to store their gear on SHA’s property.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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