Nfld. & Labrador

The MV Apollo's final stop could be the bottom of the St. Lawrence

The municipality of Godbout, Que., where the ferry hit a wharf and was retired from service, wants to use it to attract scuba divers.

Municipality of Godbout wants to sink the ferry to create a tourist attraction for scuba divers

The MV Apollo reached the end of its ferrying days when it struck a wharf in Quebec, not long after it was sold by Labrador Marine for $2.1 million to a Quebec company to serve communities on the St. Lawrence River.

Now the municipality of Godbout, Que., — where the ferry hit that wharf and was retired from service — wants to use the Apollo to attract explorers.

Paul Boissinot, president of the Quebec Federation of Underwater Activities, says the plan is to sink the Apollo near the community to make an artificial reef.

"The Apollo would be stripped completely of all the motors, oil, everything that could be a problem for the environment, and it would be sank in the Bay of the Godbout, and divers could go on and visit that shipwreck," he said.

"A lot of sea life would attract to that old ferry being put down, and it would be very good for the sea life appearing on it and it would be good for our environment there, and it would be a very nice place to go and dive, because water visibility is quite nice."

By putting the shipwreck there … it will create a condition where it will be more attractive to people to go and visit that area.- Paul Boissinot

Not as nice as Newfoundland's, he quickly added.

"Newfoundland is well known for very nice visibility, but that would attract people in that area of Quebec."

It'll take two or three years for sea life to adapt to the vessel, he said. The interior cabins will also be stripped from the boat, allowing divers trained in what's known as "penetration" to swim through it.

Boissinot said the site is a seven-hour drive from Montreal, and the wreck will give diving enthusiasts extra incentive to make the trip.

"People don't go that far because, 'Oh, there's not much to see,'" he said. "But by putting the shipwreck there, that ship down on the bottom, it will create a condition where it will be more attractive to people to go and visit that area."

The Apollo's hull was damaged when it was docking in Godbout, Que., earlier this year. (Submitted by Michael Labrie-Bacon)

Godbout is a small municipality that hopes this will attract tourists, he said.

But there's still a lot of work to be done. In addition to taking out the motors and oil, there's asbestos in the vessel that needs to be taken out.

"It's extensive work to be able to put it underwater," he said. "We don't want to create environmental damage with that wreck in the water, so that's we have to be careful that it's cleaned completely."

A representative from Environment Canada will check the ship before it's sunk, he said, and some artificial-reef experts from British Columbia have already checked out the wreck to plan just how to sink it so it rests right-side up on the sea floor, and doesn't fall on its side.

The Apollo was not that lucky.- Paul Boissinot

And there is still some work to do in getting all the necessary approvals in place, he said, but he doesn't anticipate any roadblocks.

"Right now we don't see what could stop it. We have to realize that if the ship doesn't go down, it will have to be [taken] apart, and it's quite costly to do anyway," he said.

"So we're pretty safe to say that after it's stripped down there, it's safe for the environment, and that would be the only thing that could stop it, and they won't permit it if it's not safe."

End of next summer

The group is aiming to have to the boat sunk by the end of next summer, which Boissinot said would finally give the ferry a purpose it could serve.

"The Apollo was not that lucky," he said.

"It just made 10 crossings, and then it hit the wharf there. You have to remember that when it was replaced in Newfoundland it's because it was going to its end of life. So it was already quite worn out. That's why you replaced it."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning

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