• Carmen Marie Fabio

Abandoned Beauharnois vessel being addressed


After almost five years sitting abandoned along the shoreline in Beauharnois, the rusted remains of the Kathryn Spirit cargo ship will finally be sequestered from the surrounding water of Lake Saint-Louis the federal government announced last week.

“In early December, the Groupe St-Pierre is going to begin building what’s called a cofferdam,” said Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke who was present for the announcement along with Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. “It’s essentially a dry dock around the ship to stabilize it over the winter and protect it from any damage the ice could cause.”

After being purchased by an Ontario transport company in 2006, the now 49-year-old ship was used to transport commodities through the Saint Lawrence Seaway before a 2011 mandatory lay-up period. Though originally slated for scrapping in 2011 by Groupe St-Pierre, the ship was resold to a Mexican company who encountered financial problems and difficulties in transporting the deteriorated vessel. Following bankruptcy, the company ceased the pumping operations that kept the ship afloat and it has sat in what’s considered an environmental protection zone used for drinking water.

“The first phase is to secure the ship and in December, phase two is to find a company to dismantle it,” said Schiefke.

The ship, which has been slowly shifting and listing, was stabilized this past June and secured with steel cables. Coastguard patrol vessels monitored the situation around the clock and a boom currently surrounds the area to contain any leakage of remaining fuel or hydraulic fluids.

“There was definitely a fear the ship could move, so this was a decision taken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans to take action before everything freezes up,” said Schiefke of the $7.9 million project.

PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF PETER SCHIEFKE Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke was on hand with Transport Minister Marc Garneau to announce an allocation of $7.9 million to build a cofferdam around the compromised ship before its eventual dismantling.

In December the Federal government will launch a tender to find a company that will dismantle the Kathryn Spirit in full. Once a company is contracted to dismantle the vessel, it’s expected to be completed by the end of the summer of 2017.

On November 7, Garneau announced the Ocean Protection Plan that includes “The launch of a comprehensive plan to address abandoned, derelict and wrecked vessels, including making vessel owners responsible and liable for vessel clean-up.

Schiefke said there are up to 600 abandoned ships across Canadian waterways. “This is a huge issue, both from an environmental and a financial standpoint,” said Schiefke.

The plan prohibits owners from abandoning their vessels and makes owners liable and responsible for any cleanup costs as the result of abandonment. “It empowers the Government of Canada to take more proactive action on vessels causing hazards before they become too costly to address,” Schiefke said of the current model that has seen owners opt for bankruptcy as a cheaper alternative to ship repair and maintenance costs. The plan also aims to determine who the actual owner of a vessel is and to log all outstanding repair and safety issues.

The Ocean Protection Plan is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2017.

To see the full plan consult tinyurl.com/z2vx7p8.

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