Nfld. & Labrador

Coast guard spends $6M to determine next steps for Manolis L shipwreck

The Canadian Coast Guard says a technical assessment on the sunken container ship Manolis L will help determine a long term plan for removing oil from the wreck.

New leak found during inspection on Monday

People who live in the Notre Dame Bay region call the Manolis L a "time bomb" because of the oil in its hull. (Courtesy Maritime History Archive, Memorial University)

The Canadian Coast Guard says a technical assessment on the sunken container ship Manolis L will help determine a long term plan for removing oil from the wreck.

"We want to have a thorough review and inspection of the hull to better understand what we're dealing with," said the regional director of coast guard programs in Atlantic Canada, Anne Miller.

The federal government has allocated $6 million for the work, and a tender should be awarded in early June.

"We need to know for example how much oil is down there, where it is in the hull, what the condition of the hull is and what the orientation of the vessel is on the sea floor," Miller told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show on Monday.

Coast Guard workers have patched leaks in the Manolis L but is looking for more permanent options. (Canadian Coast Guard/Submitted)

The Manolis L sank near Change Islands Jan. 18, 1985 after hitting rocks. Three years ago, a storm dislodged the vessel and some of the 500 tonnes of fuel onboard have leaked. 

New leak found during spring checkup

A coast guard environmental response team has just wrapped up its annual spring checkup of the site — replacing seals, pumping oil, and doing surveillance flights.

Bob Grant, a senior environmental response officer, said five-to-seven litres of oil spilled when a hose was disconnected from a cofferdam, but a boom was used to contain the oil.

"We are confident that any oil spilled from the hose was successfully recovered," he said Tuesday. 

Grant said a survey of the hull by a remote operated vehicle on Monday also found a new leak, a "droplet," which was covered with a neoprene seal.

"This was the smallest of a drop, and it was coming up sporadically. And when it would hit the surface, it was a nonrecoverable sheen, and within a few minutes it was gone," he said.

"And if you weren't right there and weather conditions weren't just so, like with calm sea conditions, you probably wouldn't ever see it."

Permanent fix needed

The coast guard has maintained that sealing cracks and using cofferdams will prevent environmental damage, but now it is looking for more information to guide a permanent fix. 

Miller said the assessment will take a couple of weeks, and involve specialized equipment and expertise, things that "don't come cheap." 

There are other challenges, she said, because of the deep water in the area.

The Manolis L sank in 1985 near Change Islands in Notre Dame Bay. (Courtesy Maritime History Archive, Memorial University)

Miller said the coast guard wants the work done this year.  "We plan on wasting no time...There's a very limited window that's dictated by weather conditions."

She wouldn't comment about the options, and the coast guard has so far refused to say how much it would cost to remove oil from the wrecked vessel.

With files from Cental Morning