Cormorant well on the way to being on an even keel again

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>By last Friday HMCS Cormorant was at a 8-degree list, after starting at 45 degrees when pumping began at the beginning of the week.</p>
  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Seward Benoit, Canadian Coast Guard senior response officer , has been alternating with his counterpart, Keith Laidlaw, as the person in charge of the Cormorant&#8217;s salvage operation</p>

HMCS Cormorant, the former Canadian naval ship that has been listing severely in the port of Bridgewater for months, is expected to be upright and its salvage operation nearly done this week.

However, there will still be activity on the legal front in respect of who pays for the salvage costs.

Keith Laidlaw, one of the senior response officers for the Canadian Coast Guard who was in charge of the operation, said he was pleased and surprised at how quickly the ship started rising off the jetty.

The salvage team began pumping water out of the ship at 6 a.m. on May 26. At mid-morning, Laidlaw told LighthouseNOW they expected the movement upright would be a gradual one and that they would likely be pumping off and on well into the night.

However, by 3 p.m. the vessel had gone from about a 45 degree list to one of 25 degrees.

"Once it started coming up, we just switched to plan B and continued pumping," Laidlaw said.

"I guess the ship just got tired of being on the ground," he added with a grin.

By May 29, the ship was floating at an 8-degree list, and the Coast Guard's Seward Benoit was in charge.

"By next week we hope to have all the oil off and the vessel floating on an even keel," he told LighthouseNOW on Friday.

Vacuum trucks fitted with pressure washers were making their way from the stern and bow toward the centre of the vessel, flushing out all the remaining oil and contaminants. These were then being hauled away to an industrial disposal company in Dartmouth.

A Department of Transport Dash 8 from Moncton has been flying overhead daily checking for any oil downstream.

Noting there is a lot of loose equipment in the vessel that has shifted, Benoit said that if the ship doesn't finish off at a 0-degree list when all the work is done, the team might end up pumping water back into the port side to balance it out.

Just as the salvage team puts the finishing touches on its operations, the legal process for claims is kicking in.

Jay Straith, the Vancouver solicitor representing the Port of Bridgewater, told LighthouseNOW the port's claim documents have been served and there will be an order to arrest the ship.

On default, they will apply for judicial sale, at which point all creditors with claims against the ship are expected to surface. Among the creditors are the Port of Bridgewater, which is looking to cover outstanding mooring fees, and Horsehoe Bay Marine Group, which was working on the salvage operation on behalf of the port until it could continue no longer do so when the ownership of the ship came into question. The Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund, from which the Canadian government has been drawing to cover its role in the salvage operation, will also be looking for a chunk of the ship.

"We are going to try to have the ship sold over the summer if possible and get the money paid into court while the legalities get sorted out," Straith told LighthouseNOW in an email.

"Everyone agrees that they just want the Cormorant gone," he added.

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