Nova Scotia

'It's been a nightmare': Ex-navy ship finally towed out of Bridgewater

An abandoned navy ship tied up in Bridgewater for more than 20 years is finally on its way to be scrapped in Sheet Harbour.

Abandoned ship had been tied up in Bridgewater for 20 years

The former HMCS Cormorant being towed away from the Bridgewater waterfront on Nov.18, 2020. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Good riddance.

Those might be the best words to describe the feelings of some Bridgewater, N.S., residents now that former HMCS Cormorant is finally being towed out of town.

The abandoned navy dive support ship had been tied up in Bridgewater for 20 years and has changed hands several times after it was decommissioned by the Canadian Navy in 1997.

"I'm not saddened to see it go," said Port of Bridgewater president Rick Welsford. "It's been more than a problem. It's been a nightmare."

After its original departure was delayed several times due to weather conditions, the vessel was towed down the LaHave River to the ocean on Wednesday. It will then be towed to its final destination in Sheet Harbour.

In early October, RJ MacIsaac Construction of Antigonish was awarded the federal government tender to dispose of the rusted ship. A news release Wednesday said the contract for removing pollutants, towing and demolition is worth $1.8 million.

"This was a long time coming, not just for me but for the people in our community who have been very vocal about seeing that ship removed," said federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, the member of Parliament for South Shore-St. Margarets, which includes Bridgewater. "It's just a really good day for all of us."

Contaminants removed

The 57-year-old vessel that was used in numerous NATO missions contained an estimated 6,500 litres of oil and 8,500 litres of oil-contaminated water in machinery spaces, bilges and other compartments. Those were removed prior to the ship being towed.

RJ MacIsaac has experience in dealing with the demolition of aging ships.

The company disposed of three former navy vessels at the Port Mersey commercial park near Liverpool. In 2017, the company removed the anti-sealing vessel Farley Mowat from Shelburne Harbour.

The ship partially sank in the winter of 2015. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

In 2015, the Cormorant partially sunk and it took $1 million to clean it up then.

'It's kind of a sad story'

It was designated an "imminent threat of pollution" after a pollution-threat assessment was done by the Canadian Coast Guard in 2019.

Welsford said the boat should have been cleaned out and then sunk so it could be used as an artificial reef.

"It's kind of a sad story the way this has all ended up," said Welsford. "It would be more suitable for the Canadian navy's former dive vessel to become an artificial reef than to be broken up into little bits on Nova Scotia's eastern shore."