Nova Scotia

$1.8M contract to dismantle former navy ship challenged by rival bidder

The Canadian Coast Guard is rejecting claims that a Nova Scotia company is improperly dismantling the former navy ship Cormorant. Last week, a rival bidder for the job filed a notice of objection seeking to have the $1.8-million coast guard contract terminated.

Complaint says N.S. company breached contract terms by dismantling parts while ship afloat

The former Cormorant navy ship sits at a work site in Sheet Harbour, N.S. A rival company recently accused RJ MacIsaac Construction of Antigonish of breaching their contract terms, by dismantling parts of the ship while it was afloat. (CBC)

The Canadian Coast Guard is rejecting claims that a Nova Scotia company is improperly dismantling the former navy ship Cormorant.

Last week, a rival bidder for the job filed a notice of objection seeking to have the $1.8-million coast guard contract terminated.

They claim RJ MacIsaac Construction of Antigonish breached the terms by dismantling parts of the ship while afloat at a work site in Sheet Harbour.

It's one final controversy for the notorious abandoned ship that spent 20 years as a rusting eyesore on the LaHave River in Bridgewater before it was towed to Sheet Harbour for disposal.

Work had barely begun when a hydrocarbon leak from the vessel was detected on March 23.

Three days later, Marine Recycling Corporation (MRC) of Port Colborne, Ont., filed its objection with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which manages the coast guard.

Rival used a drone to watch

MRC captured the alleged violation on drone video that shows the Cormorant floating near shore in an oily sheen contained inside booms.

Portions of the stern superstructure have been taken down.

"There's many concerns, but I guess the top of the list is the breach of the contract, the breach of the bid requirements, which required there be no dismantling afloat. There should have been no cutting or breaching of any part of the vessel while it was afloat," said Wayne Elliot of MRC.

People work on the Cormorant's hull as it sits at an RJ MacIsaac Construction job site in Sheet Harbour, N.S. (CBC)

The Cormorant tender document states "the vessel is to be removed from the water (preferred option) or pulled ashore and diked for dismantling. No floating dismantling will be accepted."

The requirement is for environmental protection.

"This facility does not have the capacity to perform dry dock, pulled ashore or diked dismantling in an environmentally safe manner," the MRC complaint states.

What CBC News saw

CBC News visited the work site in Sheet Harbour this week where the ship is no longer floating, but partially ashore on a slipway.

Earth-moving machinery was dumping loads of sand and gravel material around the vessel.

In the drone video from last week, the slipway was occupied by a barge being dismantled.

RJ MacIsaac declined an interview, saying a formal response should come from the coast guard.

However the manager on site, Darren Webster, insisted RJ MacIsaac is compliant with the contract, and said any work on the ship was minor.

The company self-reported the leak, which it estimated at one to 20 litres.

The ship will be pulled further ashore where it will be taken apart over the next two weeks.

Coast guard satisfied

In a statement to CBC News, the coast guard said RJ MacIsaac had a pre-deployed boom in place around the hull of the vessel and a coast guard assessment determined the leak to be a minor, non-recoverable sheen.

"Coast guard deemed the actions taken by the responsible party were appropriate for the nature of the spill and effective in mitigating the effects," the statement said.

The coast guard did not address what happened last week, but suggested the agency is satisfied.

"The ship is now on the contractor's slipway in Sheet Harbour and is in the final stages of being pulled up the slipway out of the water ahead of dismantling, as required by the contract."

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