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‘Finally the day has come’: Farley Mowat sets sail from Shelburne

SHELBURNE, NS - There was an early morning celebration at the Shelburne Marine Terminal on July 26 as the Town of Shelburne bid farewell to the MV Farley Mowat. 

People began arriving at the wharf before 7 a.m., the anticipated departure time for the abandoned, derelict vessel. A pirate and a piper were among the crowd that also included South Shore-St. Margaret’s MP Bernadette Jordan and Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall.

“This is a very big day for the Town of Shelburne,” said Mattatall. “It’s been almost three years we’ve had this albatross around our necks so finally the day has come. It’s a very big deal for us. It’s been a long time coming. We exhausted every legal option that we had. We are thankful the federal government stepped in. It’s important to the Town to see it go. It’s a big deal because it never should have happened to begin with.”

The process to remove the Farley Mowat from the Shelburne Marine Terminal began on July 5, after a survey in May concluded the vessel was presenting a risk of pollution to the marine environment in the area.

The Canadian Coast Guard gave owner Tracey Dodds, who abandoned the Farley Mowat in September 2014, until June 12 to develop a plan to address the threat of pollution the vessel posed while at the dock in Shelburne. With the deadline passed and no plan from the owner, the Coast Guard issued a contract for the removal and disposal of the vessel.

To prepare the vessel for towing, all fluids were removed from the open hull as well as the ballast tanks, said Keith Laidlow , senior response officer with the Canadian Coast Guard. Then, 16 tonnes of concrete were poured into the vessel “to give it some ballast so it would be stable,” said Laidlaw. “That’s what the naval architects and engineers came up with for a safe tow.”

Laidlaw said Atlantic Towing arrived at the wharf on July 25 and the tow line was connected, with the tow captain making the final call whether the tow would be a go.

For a while, it was iffy whether not sea conditions would be OK. That didn’t seem to bother the crowd, who enjoyed cake, listened to music and socialized. Finally, at 9:30 a.m., after a second check on sea conditions, the tow was a go.

It didn’t take long for the contractors and Coast Guard personnel to ready the Farley and untie the lines. In total, there were 30 people on site to do the job, which included escorting the Farley Mowat out of the harbour .

“It will be escorted by a couple of our pollution response vessels and a conservation and protection vessel,” said Laidlaw.

The CCG ship Earl Grey and a Coast Guard chopper were also on site to escort the vessel.

Laidlaw estimated it would take 10 hours to tow the Farley to Mersey Park in Brooklyn, Queens County where it will be dismantled.

“We have to have a tow route mapped out and we have that as part of our plan,” he said. “They will follow that route,” adding the tow had to be done in daylight hours.

It was through the passage of Jordan’s private member’s bill last fall that the way was paved for removal of the vessel.

“This is really exciting,” said Jordan as she watched the Farley Mowat be readied for towing.

Jordan said she used the Farley Mowat as the “poster child” to show Parliament “this is what coastal communities shouldn’t have to deal with.”

Mattatall estimates it has cost the Town of Shelburne more than $200,000 in unpaid berthage fees, legal costs, security and other expenses to have the Farley Mowat abandoned at the marine terminal for the past three years.

As for what the price tag will be for the removal of the vessel?

“We won’t know the final cost until basically it’s a pile of scrap metal,” said Laidlaw.

The contract to remove the vessel, which was awarded to R.J. MacIsaac, has a lot of variables, he said.

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