MV Farley Mowat heading to Liverpool for dismantling

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The MV Farley Mowat is set to be towed to and then dismantled at the Port Mersey Commercial Park.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The derelict vessel has been a thorn in the side of the Town of Shelburne since 2014.</p>

A derelict boat that's caused years of headaches for Shelburne residents is about to meet its demise in Liverpool.

The long saga of the MV Farley Mowat is finally coming to an end, but first it has to be towed to Liverpool Bay where the marine construction and demolition company RJ MacIsaac Ltd will reduce the former Sea Shepherd vessel to scrap.

The move comes after a private members motion to address abandoned and derelict vessels was passed in the House of Commons in October. Bernadette Jordan, MP for South Shore - St. Margaret's, originally proposed the motion.

"I'm really glad that it's finally getting out of there and the progress that we've made in a relatively quick amount of time although the Farley Mowat has been there for three years," she said.

Jordan says the issue was a cross-party one and that she heard members of the Greens and NDP address the issue in parliament, though she says she also heard about derelict vessels all across the South Shore while she campaigned, and after she won her seat.

Her motion passed unanimously in the house.

"That's something that doesn't happen a lot," she laughed.

The vessel sits at a government wharf and has been a point of contention since its arrival in 2014. The problems with the vessel came to a head when the ship sank in 2015, leaking oil. The Town of Shelburne has had to spend thousands of dollars to re-float it and continues to pump it out periodically as it filled with rain water and snow.

The Canadian Coast Guard conducted a survey in May that found the Farley Mowat presented a risk of polluting the marine environment in the area should it sink again.

Keith Laidlaw, Senior Response Officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says it was noted during the survey that there are over 10,000 litres of oily water on board the vessel.

The Coast Guard gave the owner of the vessel until June 12, to develop a plan to address the threat of pollution the vessel posed, but with no response from the owner, the Coast Guard issued an emergency contract to R.J. MacIsaac Ltd.

R.J. MacIsaac operates out of Port Mersey Commercial Park, which is the site of the Bowater Paper Mill. The company has dismantled a number of former naval vessels after winning contracts from the federal government. The company is currently in the process of dismantling two former Royal Canadian Navy destroyers.

"There are a lot of these vessels around the country so there is a chance for some economic benefit to these companies that can remove them so that's a positive thing," said Jordan.

Getting rid of the vessel

Laidlaw calls MacIsaac a "one stop shop" and says that MacIsaac has hired subcontractors to assess and remove contaminants and to tow the vessel. The planning process for the ship's removal will also include naval architects and an independent consulting company.

Because the vessel is also partially salvaged, she no longer has much of her super structure and rain water gets in, causing potential for the vessel to sink again and potentially causing issues with towing it to Liverpool for scrapping.

"The vessel was in a state of salvaging at the time it sank here back in 2015 so the super structure and the wheel house and all of the accommodations above the deck have been removed long ago," said Laidlaw.

Because of weight distribution issues, remedies like filling the hold with water as ballast may be required to keep the vessel from flipping but Laidlaw says it's too early to tell.

The boat also has also had its engine removed, it will have to be towed the roughly 100 kilometres to Port Mersey Commercial Park.

"It's a relatively short tow and we will do it in favourable weather," said Laidlaw.

A cost for the work was not immediately available, but Laidlaw says the costs will fall on the owner.

The saga

Demolition has been a long time coming for the former flagship of the Sea Shepherd Society, a non-profit environmentalist group well-known for often taking vigilante action. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized the vessel in 2008 after authorities say the vessel came too close to sealing boats and struck a Coast Guard icebreaking ship in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The ship was sold in 2009 and sat in Sydney and Lunenburg, causing its port fees to pile up. Its current owner, Tracy Dodds, brought the vessel to Shelburne Harbour in 2014 where it continued to languish, while being partially salvaged and again racking up docking fees, this time at the Shelburne Marine Terminal.

Now that the federal government has stepped in, the hope is to have the vessel removed near the end of July. Jordan says when it's gone the town will have a party.

"As far as I know, the town is throwing a 'farewell Farley party,'" she laughed.

Jordan says she couldn't be happier to see the progress on removing the Farley Mowat and she hopes to see movement in the future on other vessels, such as the Cormorant, which currently sits at a private wharf in Bridgewater and once flooded and toppled onto the jetty in 2015.

"It's going to undergo a technical assessment through the Oceans Protections Plan project, it's a risk-based strategy for vessels of concern," she said.

Jordan says the Coast Guard is monitoring the Cormorant and they will take immediate action if it starts to pose a threat to the surrounding marine environment.

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