05 November 2011

Lemonade out of old ships:

Wayne Elliott of Marine Recycling Corp. of Port Colborne, Ont. wants to make lemonade out of the massive and mangled lemon that is the 230-metre freighter MV Miner grounded on Scatarie Island.

“We have salvaged shipwrecks before, so sure, if the opportunity comes we may have our hat in the ring for that,” said Elliott. “But more vessels for recycling at Sydport is what we are looking at.”

Elliott made the news earlier in the week when he said he had emailed an informal proposal to Marine Atlantic to recycle the 2 ferries the Crown corporation was divesting itself of earlier this year and which ultimately ended up at a notoriously unsafe shipbreaking yard in Alang, India. Elliott hadn’t submitted a formal bid on the 2 ships; no Canadian company did.

Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking took up the cause during question period on Wednesday.

“We have found out that Marine Atlantic has sold 2 ferries to a company in India when there was a Canadian company who bid on the job to dismantle these ships in Cape Breton,” Eyking said. “Not only have we lost 50 good-paying trade jobs, this would have been a great economic boost for our local industry. Why is this prime minister letting yet another minister bleed jobs out of Atlantic Canada?”

Unfortunately, it appears as if Eyking was confused on a number of points. Marine Atlantic didn’t sell the ferries to a company in India, but instead sold them through a broker to separate firms based in 2 small island nations, which in turn sold them to one company in India. There was no call for bids to dismantle the ships, only to sell them. And no Canadian company submitted a bid to buy the boats.

And was Eyking basing his statement that “we lost 50 good-paying trade jobs” solely on Elliott’s say-so? It’s one thing to come out against real job losses such as those expected at local Service Canada centres, but how can one “bleed” jobs that never existed?

If Eyking thinks Elliott’s proposal to recycle ships at Sydport is sound, he should articulate how it would work, because it raises a lot of questions.

The MV Miner is unique in that it’s a sitting (wounded) duck. It has to be broken down on site and so there’s no reason why a Canadian company, such as Marine Recycling Corp., shouldn’t be able to submit a competitive bid to do that work.

But can a Canadian outfit compete with other shipbreaking companies around the world in terms of vessels that can be transported? And we don’t mean unregulated yards such as that found in Alang, India (no Canadian boat should end up there), but firms that adhere to guidelines set out by the IMO.

And Elliott suggests that his company would like to take advantage of the $25-billion federal shipbuilding contract recently awarded to the Irving shipyard in Halifax, in that his company can recycle the old ships the new ones will replace. But how many years will it be before the first of the new warships will be completed? And will there be no market for the old boats as functioning vessels?

There’s so reason why old vessels shouldn’t be recycled at Sydport. But those backing such a proposal need to put forward a coherent, well-reasoned plan as to how it would work

Source: The Cape Breton Post. 5 November 2011

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