TWO men at the centre of a three-year legal battle over derelict ships at Kings Wharf yesterday said they had been vindicated in the Launceston Magistrates Court.
Les Dick and Mark O'Brien had pleaded guilty to charges of failing to put their vessels into a seaworthy condition.
Mr Dick and Mr O'Brien were both convicted of the charges but Magistrate Robert Pearce did not fine them under the MAST legislation, which allows for a $5000 fine and an additional $500 for each day of non-compliance.
The men were given 12 months to move the vessels to a MAST-approved location.
Mr Dick owns the former Flinders Island trading ketch Lady Jillian, former Bruny Island car ferry Harry O'May and tug Cape Bruny, while Mr O'Brien owns the hull Cape Forestier.
The men yesterday said they had never intended the break the law.
They claim they have been hampered by bureaucratic red tape in their attempts to move "an important part of the state's maritime history" from the Tamar River to a River Street property for restoration.
"We are just trying to act as custodians of our maritime heritage," Mr Dick said.
Mr O'Brien said that red tape meant it would be at least six months before the boats could be moved.
He said the Crown Land department was demanding an extensive soil sediment study be completed on land adjacent to Kings Wharf - an apparent conservation area gazetted in 1940 to stop duck shooting - so that the vessels can cross it during relocation.
"It's costing $50,000 to get approval to pull it over the land and Crown Land has said it would take at least six months to assess the application," Mr O'Brien said.
"No one is not doing their job, it is just the red tape and getting the departments to work together."
The Launceston City Council then needs to agree to an application to change the permitted use status on the River Street block and then the change needs to go to the Tasmanian Planning Commission to be ratified.
Mr Dick and Mr O'Brien said they had spent $825,000 to date to secure the River Street site and proceed through the bureaucracy to have the vessels moved.
They did not know how much their plans to restore the vessels would cost but said work would be carried out gradually.
They hope to develop a tourism venture such as a maritime precinct.
Mr Dick said yesterday's court decision vindicated their determination to save the vessels, which some people have described as an eyesore.
He also hit out at the legislation, introduced to Parliament by then-minister Jim Cox in 2006.
Mr Dick said it was stupid and did not provide for heritage vessels.
"It should only be for abandoned vessels that no one is responsible for or if the owner won't do anything with them," Mr Dick said.
No one has been made to pay a fine though the MAST legislation.
Infrastructure Minister Lara Giddings was asked whether the Government was satisfied that the legislation was being used effectively and if the she expected the Parks Department or Crown Land to do anything with the wharf once the boats were moved, given its unkempt state.
MAST chief executive Colin Finch responded on her behalf, saying he could not comment on the decision because he had not considered it in detail.