Concerns over rusting cargo ship abandoned on shore of Quebec town

BEAUHARNOIS, Que. -- As Mayor Claude Haineault tells it, the arrival of a hulking cargo ship along the shores of his southwestern Quebec town a little more than four years ago caught residents by surprise.

See Full Article

A local company had bought the decommissioned Kathryn Spirit, intending to dismantle it in the waters off Beauharnois and use it for scrap.

But following a series of controversies, the rusty vessel has sat idle since September 2011 without a disposal plan for the abandoned bulk carrier.

"We woke up one morning and there was a ship attached to a barge," says Haineault, pointing at the dormant ship on the shores of Lake St. Louis, which streams into the St. Lawrence River.

Haineault has been fighting to get the decrepit carrier out of the town, about 60 kilometres southwest of Montreal, and says it might be an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, given recent developments.

The local firm, Groupe St-Pierre, eventually sold the ship to a Mexican company, which apparently went bankrupt and abandoned it a few weeks ago.

Another Quebec firm that had been hired to maintain the vessel and operate the pumps to keep it upright recently stopped doing so after not being paid.

Federal Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo reassured Haineault the Kathryn Spirit is not discharging any pollutants and that the "vast majority" of them were removed in 2013.

"The Quebec government has confirmed that the Kathryn Spirit currently poses no risk of environmental contamination and measures are in place to actively monitor the vessel to ensure no pollution damages occur," Tootoo wrote in a letter dated Jan. 22.

But Haineault argues that Beauharnois officials don't have a detailed account of the ship's contents. There has been increased vandalism, including two fires.

"What we know from the (former) maintenance firm is they recommended to our firefighters not to go on board the ship in case of fire," Haineault said. "They said it would be extremely risky with toxic products and the fumes it would produce."

Federal officials are scheduled to visit their Beauharnois counterparts on Monday to discuss the ship, which is currently encased in thin ice and anchored to a makeshift dock upstream from Montreal.

"This boat is taking in water and if nothing is done, it'll end up capsizing in the water," Haineault fears.

Built in 1967, the 150-metre-long Kathryn Spirit was used to haul cargo. In 2011, Groupe St-Pierre's plans to tear it down for scrap were scuppered by the province and local residents. It sold the ship to Reciclajes Ecologicos Maritimos, which intended to bring it back to Mexico.

It nearly left in 2013, but the tug that was supposed to tow it was stopped in Halifax and impounded with the crew living in terrible conditions.

Haineault says the federal government has not properly addressed his concerns.

Both he and the local MP say the ship is not just a problem for Beauharnois -- and that if there's contamination in the St. Lawrence River, it could create problems downstream in Montreal and surrounding communities.

In Montreal, the river is a sensitive topic after the city controversially dumped five billion litres of raw sewage into the body of water last year so it could do infrastructure work.

Montreal-area mayors support Haineault's call for federal help, agreeing in a recent joint statement that the Kathryn Spirit's presence "constitutes a nuisance and an environmental hazard."

Anne Minh-Thu Quach, the New Democrat MP for Salaberry-Suroit, has been calling for federal action since 2011.

"If they wait until there's a leak or catastrophe, it'll cost even more to decontaminate and move the wreckage," Quach says.

"The state of the boat isn't going to get better and now no one is keeping watch."

The federal government says it will work on a contingency plan, but Quach and Haineault suggest a more immediate response is needed.

"What we're asking is that the ship leave Beauharnois -- there's no port installation here and we object to any demolition work taking place here," Haineault said. "It should be sent to a dry dock and demolished in a way that's safe for the environment."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Rescuers searching for survivors of Tehran high-rise collapse

    World News CTV News
    TEHRAN, Iran - Rescue teams worked overnight to try and reach trapped firefighters and other victims after a commercial building collapsed and killed at least 30 firefighters. Scores of workers and dozens of trucks were searching the ruins for victims Friday, a day after a historic high-rise building in the heart of Iran's capital caught fire and later collapsed. Source
  • Thai farmers turn to gold panning after floods devastate fields

    World News CTV News
    BANG SAPHAN, Thailand -- Nature regularly taunts the farmers of Thailand by flooding their fields, but this time she's tossed some of them a potential safety net: the chance to pan for gold. Crops in Bang Saphan district, a rural community 240 kilometres south of Bangkok, were decimated by heavy flooding that affected much of southern Thailand in the week after New Year's. Source
  • Kenney reassures unite-the-right crowd after tumultuous week for Alta. PCs

    Canada News CBC News
    Jason Kenney dismissed a week's worth of very public party infighting at a Calgary town hall meeting organized to bring Alberta conservatives together. "In any leadership election, especially when the stakes are this high, there is going to be some high emotions and some friction," the man who wants to lead Alberta conservatives told reporters after the meeting. Source
  • 'I will see you tomorrow': president-elect Trump to supporters at Lincoln Memorial

    World News CBC News
    With fireworks heralding his big moment, Donald Trump swept into Washington Thursday on the eve of his presidential inauguration and pledged to unify a nation sorely divided and clamouring for change. The capital braced for an onslaught of crowds and demonstrators — with all the attendant hoopla and hand-wringing. Source
  • Many voters struggle to believe reality of Trump presidency as inauguration looms

    World News CTV News
    On the morning 19 months ago when Donald Trump descended the escalator in his glitzy Manhattan tower, waving to onlookers who lined the rails, many Americans knew little about him beyond that he was very rich and had a thing for firing people on a reality television show. Source
  • Doctors consider removing George H.W. Bush’s breathing tube

    World News Toronto Sun
    HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush, who has pneumonia, remained in stable condition Thursday at Houston Methodist Hospital, while his wife, Barbara, said she is feeling “1,000% better” after undergoing treatment for bronchitis. Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said the 41st president’s physicians are “actively evaluating him” for removal of a breathing tube that was inserted Wednesday in a procedure to clear his airway. Source
  • UN concerned over predominance of child soldiers in Somalia extremist group

    World News CTV News
    UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he is alarmed at reports that children may constitute a large part of the force recruited and used by al-Shabab Islamic extremists in Somalia. Guterres said it is estimated over half its force are children, citing as an example that at least 60 percent of al-Shabab "elements" captured in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region in March 2016 were youngsters. Source
  • 'I call him my hero': Man saves wife on 3rd plunge into frozen lake

    Canada News CBC News
    Audrey Berndt usually accompanies her husband Kevin Wiseman when he grooms the trails for a West-Quebec snowmobile club. She says she doesn't want him to be alone, in case something goes wrong. Something did on Wednesday night around 6 p.m. Source
  • Brazil judge dies in plane crash ahead of corruption probe ruling

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki's died in a small-plane crash just weeks before he was to rule on a major corruption case that could implicate high-ranking politicians in several Latin American countries. Source
  • Conservative leadership candidates square off at Winnipeg forum

    Canada News CBC News
    Candidates for the Conservative party leadership squared off at a leadership forum on Thursday night that covered an array of issues ranging from carbon pricing to the role of the federal government with respect to Indigenous people to Canada's obligations to NATO. Source