After nearly 16 years in Grand Bank Harbour, the Atlantic Pursuit is finally set to depart

·3 min read
The Atlantic Pursuit has been in Grand Bank Harbour for nearly 16 years. (Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook - image credit)
The Atlantic Pursuit has been in Grand Bank Harbour for nearly 16 years. (Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook - image credit)
Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook
Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook

After almost 16 years docked in Grand Bank Harbour, the departure of the Atlantic Pursuit is looking more likely than ever — but its next journey will be its last.

The federal Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO) has issued a tender for the transportation and dismantling of the ship, which has been bought and sold several times since 2007 as various owners tried — and failed — to put it back into service.

The tender gives the winning bidder until Oct. 31, 2022 to remove the boat.

Barry Smith, Grand Bank Harbour supervisor, told CBC News prospective bidders will be viewing the vessel on Thursday, and he's hopeful that means the vessel's time in the harbour is reaching its end.

"It's been a thorn pretty much, you know, in the Harbour Authority's pocket and the town," he said. "They've been [hoping] that it was gonna go, gonna go. And it just keeps seeming to fall through."

In early December 2006, a rogue wave struck the Atlantic Pursuit, which at the time was owned by Clearwater Seafoods and used as a clam trawler. The wave knocked out power and damaged the wheelhouse, and the boat was towed to Grand Bank Harbour.

Clearwater Seafoods sold the vessel, and it has been stuck in limbo ever since.

Owners as near as New Brunswick and as far as Honduras have failed to repair and remove the ship.

"A larger vessel currently in St. John's will arrive in Fortune Bay over the next two to three weeks, all things being equal, that will be used to tow the 'Atlantic Pursuit,'" reads a March 7, 2014 Facebook post from the Town of Grand Bank.

Four days later, the town posted that the departure had "hit a snag."

Smith said a group from Honduras managed to get the Atlantic Pursuit running again around 2018, but those owners didn't end up removing the boat. In a December 2018 Facebook post, the town pleaded for donations to help fund a crew member's trip home.

"While the boat was owned by individuals or different companies, there was nothing anybody could really do," he said.

Smith said the latest owner had been attempting to remove the ship for more than two years when DFO stepped in. He said the previous owner still owes the Harbour Authority money, but he didn't know how much.

DFO paying for removal: Grand Bank Mayor

DFO issued a notice of intention to dismantle it under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act earlier this year. The notice described the vessel as dilapidated and incapable of safe navigation.

Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook
Tina Perry Hillier/Facebook

While speaking with CBC News in May, Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews said proposals to repair and use the vessel never seemed realistic. He said most equipment had been taken off the vessel after it was towed to Grand Bank, making repairs difficult.

He said DFO, not the town, will be paying for the removal.

Matthews said the vessel is now an eyesore, but at one time the vessel and its crew brought work and economic benefits to the town and region.

"It's been a long journey, we need to get the vessel removed, but that vessel worked very, very well for the people of Grand Bank," he said.

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