MONTREAL—The dismantling of an abandoned, rusting cargo ship southwest of Montreal should begin next spring, the federal government announced Nov. 10.
A contract has been awarded for the construction of a protective embankment around the Kathryn Spirit to allow it to be taken apart in the water next year.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau laid out details of the plan at a news conference near the hulking vessel just three days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined a $1.5-billion marine protection plan for Canada’s oceans.
“One element of that was measures to put in place, for the future, with respect to abandoned or derelict vessels,” Garneau said.
While the exact numbers aren’t available, Garneau said estimates suggest there are between 600 and 700 abandoned vessels on Canada’s three coasts.
“We are putting in place measures that will penalize—and there will be very strict penalties—those who are owners of ships and abandon their ships,” he said.
The Kathryn Spirit was brought to Beauharnois in 2011 by a private Quebec firm hoping to dismantle it in the St. Lawrence River and sell it for scrap.
That project didn’t materialize and the bulk carrier was sold to Mexican interests who have since declared bankruptcy.
They abandoned the vessel last year on the shores of Lake St. Louis, which streams into the St. Lawrence.
Garneau says the ship has been largely emptied of any hazardous materials and that the Coast Guard has been keeping close tabs on it since the summer.
Deputy commissioner Julie Gascon said the dismantling will take place on site because the ship’s condition rules out transporting it elsewhere.
“The situation with the vessel is stable, however building the embankment is a priority in order to isolate completely the vessel from the environment,” Gascon said.
Construction of the embankment will cost $7.9 million and will be carried out by Groupe St. Pierre, the Quebec firm that bought the ship in the first place.
Garneau defended the decision to use the company, which is located near the ship and is able to begin construction immediately.
Once the first phase is done, Ottawa will put out a tender to find someone to actually dismantle the ship, probably next spring.
The cost of tearing down the vessel isn’t known, Garneau said.
Local NDP MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach welcomed the announcement for more stringent rules, having lobbied three different transport and fisheries ministers to intervene in the Kathryn Spirit over the years.
Through an access-to-information request, she learned the ship contained 7,000 tonnes of contaminated water as of April.
“It’s time to make sure this never happens again in Quebec or anywhere else in Canada,” she said.
A working group comprised of federal and local officials had been discussing the matter since February.
Beauharnois Mayor Claude Haineault said he was pleased with Thursday’s announcement after working tirelessly to have the ship removed from his town, about 60 kilometres southwest of Montreal.
“We’re very happy, we’ve been waiting for this decision,” Haineault said.