MAIN-A-DIEU — The province has decided to go local by awarding the $11.9 million contract to remove the wreck of the MV Miner from the shores of Scatarie Island to an Antigonish-based company.
Local residents packed the Coastal Discovery Centre in Main-a-Dieu Friday to hear Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan announce that RJ MacIsaac Construction was the successful bidder following a request for proposals that attracted interest from some international players.
“Today is an important step to have a contractor in place that’s capable of that work, we know that that is the situation, so now we move forward on the specific plans for the environmental plan, the build plan and ultimately the removal of the wreckage,” MacLellan said.
The shipwrecked bulk carrier broke free of its towline as it was being hauled by a Greek oceangoing tug across the Atlantic to Turkey in 2011, where it was to be used for scrap. It’s been stranded in the protected wilderness area ever since.
“The reality is this is a derelict vessel on the shores of a protected wildlife area, it had to be done, someone had to take responsibility and take the lead on the file,” MacLellan told reporters.
Premier Stephen McNeil had promised to go ahead with the removal during the provincial election campaign.
A previous attempt by a New York-based company to salvage the MV Miner resulted in the company walking away from the job, blaming government bureaucratic hurdles it said were put in place by the previous NDP government.
This time is different, MacLellan said, saying the strength was in the details contained in the request for proposals.
“When we started this process, to respond to the RFP, and going up against the international companies, we prepared ourselves very well, we brought in a strong team,” Boyd MacIsaac of RJ MacIsaac Construction said. “We felt very good about it all along, however, you never know because there was some tough competition out there.”
MacIsaac said the second attempt to remove the wreck will be much different than the first. They will be able to meet the province’s target of having the work finished by November, he said.
“The difference is that you have a very experienced local team coming with the right equipment and a great plan,” he said.
It will be a difficult job, MacIsaac said, noting the island is a challenging location, they will have to deal with marine weather and the process of getting on and off the island could limit activity.
To minimize the effects those issues could have on work proceeding, they intend to set up a camp on the island. They will build a road behind the vessel, creating a landing area, and protect it with armour stone. About 80-90 per cent of the demolition will be conducted from land, MacIsaac said.
The most intensive salvage work will take place following the lobster season, he said, adding they will work closely with local fishermen.
About 10 local jobs could be created by the project. The value of the scrap is likely one million to three million dollars, MacIsaac said.
Gary Campbell, president of Nova Scotia Lands, said the team that reviewed the bids followed a very stringent process and unanimously chose RJ MacIsaac Construction.
The proposals were reviewed by a panel including representation from the provincial and federal governments, including health and safety officers, officials from the Department of Environment, the provincial procurement office, and Transport Canada.
A point system was used to evaluate the bids considering many factors, including price, method of removal, occupational health and safety and environmental consideration.
Sean Howard of the Main-a-Dieu Community Development Association described the MV Miner as “the monstrous wreck, the blight and the menace.”
“If there’s one thing that can be said with complete confidence about this community, it’s that it has absolutely no idea when or how to give up,” Howard said.
Local resident Annette Phillips said she was glad the contract went to a local company.
“It’s going to be a big weight off our shoulders because you never know what’s going to happen down the road if that ship started to go apart when there were other ships and fishing boats around the area,” she said.
MacLellan reiterated the province’s argument that it shouldn’t be responsible for the wreck and its hopes that federal government may agree to cost-share.
Canadian shipping laws must be reviewed, MacLellan said, including ensuring that the proper insurance is in place when such tows occur.
Alfie MacLeod, MLA for Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg, said the work wouldn’t be going ahead if it wasn’t the tenacity shown by the Main-a-Dieu Community Development Association, and he also commended MacLellan for his work on the file, saying it transcended politics.