03 June 2012

Scatarie shipbreaking:

Shipbreaking. That word conjures up images of multiple rusting supertankers on polluted beaches in developing countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, being dismantled by legions of young, underpaid men working in notoriously dangerous conditions.

Shipbreaking Scatarie-style will be poles apart from the practice as it plays out in South Asia, says Abe Shah, chief operating officer of the New York-based salvage company Bennington Group, which plans to break up and barge away the remains of the bulk carrier MV Miner from Scatarie Island this summer.

According to Shah, the company will use local labour, equipment and materials to stabilize and secure the 230-metre hulk, erect cribbing around it, break down much of the ship by mechanical means, and place a boom around the old Great Lakes carrier to contain and absorb pollutants. The province says Bennington carries sufficient liability and marine insurance. And, of course, Bennington will be monitored by the Canadian Coast Guard and the provincial Department of Natural Resources.

But in the end, shipbreaking — whether in Chittagong in Bangladesh or Scatarie Island in Nova Scotia — appears to be driven by one factor: profit for salvaged steel and other materials.

Granted, the companies operating the notorious shipbreaking yards in the Indian subcontinent, where old ships are purposely beached, are in a position to realize much greater profits than a company dismantling an unintentionally grounded ship on an island off the Atlantic coast, while abiding by Canadian labour and environmental regulations.

But Bennington isn’t being philanthropic with respect to its plans for the MV Miner. Shah said the ship’s owner, Arvina Navigation of Turkey, wants to do “the right thing” in joining up with Bennington to have the MV Miner removed from Scatarie, but he also said Arvina Navigation isn’t paying Bennington to dismantle the old bulk carrier.

Shah is cagey about what the scrap might be worth, but we assume he thinks Bennington will realize more than the $1 million he says it will cost the company to break down the MV Miner and remove the material.

Not that the value of the scrap really matters to Cape Bretoners. The fishermen whose livelihoods depend on a safe, healthy marine environment around Scatarie Island appear grateful that the value of the scrap is worth enough for a qualified, seemingly co-operative enterprise to remove it.

Otherwise, the MV Miner might have been left to moulder on Scatarie indefinitely. With that possibility in mind, we continue to question why Transport Canada permitted the MV Miner to be towed in Canadian waters during last year’s hurricane season — evidently without posting any kind of sufficient bond — and what changes Transport Canada plan to make to ensure others aren’t dependent on scrap metal dealers to clean up a mess the next time a ship goes aground in another Canadian coastal community.

Source: The Cape Breton Post. 1 June 2012

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