MARIE JOSEPH – Following long-awaited action by the federal government, residents of this small Eastern Shore village will soon bid bon voyage to the wreck of the MV Caruso, which has blighted their shoreline for more than a decade.
According to a public tender issued on Sept. 13, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, through the Coast Guard of Canada, is seeking “the permanent elimination of the threat of pollution posed by the vessel MV Caruso currently located in Marie-Joseph, NS.”
The solicitation, which closes on Oct. 11, states that “all recoverable pollutants are to be removed; site preparation must be completed for vessel dismantling; final disposal of the vessel and its contents at recognized recycling facilities [must be made]; and [the] worksite [must be] remediated.”
The document stipulates that the successful bidder — which is expected to complete the project within four months of wining the contract — must demonstrate that it has a minimum of five years’ experience in marine salvage or “the marine industry” within the last 15 years and that it has “completed pollutant removal and dismantling operations of steel hulled vessels” on two separate occasions within the last 10.
The bidder must also supply an organizational chart — and all relevant safety plans — for its onsite team managing and performing the work, along with details on how intends to access the rusting vessel; assess, inspect and pump its compartments and tanks; and remove all bulk and residual pollutants.
“Vessel internal spaces are considered to be confined spaces and all internal spaces should be considered unsafe for access unless ventilated and tested prior to entry,” the solicitation warns.
The news came as a surprise to Charlene Zinck, the councillor for Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s who represents the community. “I know it has been a long-standing issue,” she said. “I know that federal government has been working on this, but I had no idea that a tender was coming this quick … A lot of those residents will be happy to see it out of there. I think like there was a big concern on what it could be doing to the waters.”
According to the backgrounder accompanying the solicitation, the all-steel vessel was built in Sorel, Quebec, in 1959 as a buoy tender for the Canadian Coast Guard and christened CCGS Tupper. “It was decommissioned in July 1997 and sold to a private party in 1999, at which point it was renamed MV Caruso. In 2008, [it] experienced an interior fire, causing extensive damage. [It] was once again sold in 2011 and towed to Marie Joseph, where it was beached for the purpose of demolition.”
In Feb. 2021, members of the Coast Guard’s Environmental Response team removed approximately 35,000 liters of fuel and oil/water mixtures from the vessel.
The following June, volunteer fire crews from Port Dufferin, Moser River, Ecum Secum, Liscomb and Sherbrooke arrived to put out a fire at the commercial boat shed adjacent to its mooring. The blaze destroyed the building — and several boats it contained — and charred an electricity pole, but the wharf and the Caruso survived.
In October, the Coast Guard told The Journal in an email that “the owner of the vessel is taking measures to eliminate the threat of pollution posed by the vessel. Coast Guard will monitor the owner’s progress to permanently eliminate the threat of pollution [it poses] and take any measures necessary to prevent marine damage.”
A month later, the Coast Guard issued another statement to The Journal — this time suggesting that it was prepared to use its “legislative authorities” should the Caruso’s owner prove “unable or unwilling” to remove it. The marine watchdog also confirmed, while it had identified the owner, that information was protected by the Canada Privacy Act.
“The demolition has never been completed … All communications with the landowner will be handled by CCG-ER [Canadian Coast Guard-Environmental Response],” states last week’s solicitation.
Zinck, who does know the owner’s identity, says that while residents should be pleased about the removal, “I do feel for the property [vessel] owner. When he brought it there, he had good intentions of tearing it apart and selling it for scrap. So, I feel for him. He’s had health issues and everything, and a few barriers to doing that.”
According to the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, 2019, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans “may take the measures that he or she considers necessary in respect of the dilapidated vessel or its contents, including repairing, securing, moving or removing the vessel or its contents or selling, dismantling, destroying or otherwise disposing of them.”
Moreover, under a different Act, the Coast Guard can “mobilize” against a vessel that “causes any pollution damage and/or need for cleanup”, according its Emergency Response Levels of Service regulations: “Where the polluter is identified, [we] will advise the polluter of its responsibilities under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and once the polluter’s intentions/plans are known and an On-scene Commander (OSC) is appointed by the polluter, [we] will assume the role of Federal Monitoring Officer. In the event that the polluter is unknown, unwilling or unable to respond, the CCG will assume the role of OSC.”
A budget range for the project was not included.
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal