13 June 2015

Could Captain John's still live on?

Investors make last-ditch effort to save ship from scrapping

 Captain John stands on the bow for the last time as his ship is towed from the Toronto harbour after 40 years. May 28, 2015. 
Randy Risling/Toronto Star

As she sits tied up at a Port Colborne scrapping yard, Captain John’s floating restaurant is yet again drawing a crowd.

A Boston-Miami investor group has offered about $100,000 to save the former Toronto tourist attraction from being cut up into recyclable pieces. And they aren’t alone.

One person has even inquired over what it would take to get the 90-metre ship, the Jadran, a new engine and put it back in business — a $10 million to $15 million proposition.

“I’ve probably talked four or five people out of being interested, just to do them a favour, really,” says veteran ship scrapper Wayne Elliott, who oversaw the towing of the ship from Toronto’s waterfront last month after years of legal battles over its fate.

“We’ve heard from a number of people and with some, it seems to be just emotion and not really well thought-out. Many don’t even have a final plan or a final destination for the ship.”

But some, like Boston-based John Scales, do. And there’s nothing in the contract that Elliott’s Marine Recycling Corporation has with Ports Toronto, Waterfront Toronto and condo developer Cityzen — worth an estimated $500,0000 — that says the ship has to be scrapped.  

Marine Recycling was simply contracted to remove the Jadran from Toronto’s waterfront, where it was a fixture for 40 years.

Scales is part of a three-person group of marine enthusiasts that has been trying to buy the Jadran for more than a year now. It had offered Ports Toronto $3,000 for the rusting ship, largely because of the high costs of moving it to drydock, before adding on the millions needed in restorations.

But now that Elliott’s Marine Recycling Corporation has done the heavy lifting — towing Captain John’s on May 28 to its Port Colborne scrapyard — Scales’ group has upped its price and is more determined than ever to give the ship yet another life, this time as a restaurant or entertainment venue.

The group already had three Ontario waterfront communities and about a dozen in the U.S. express interest in making a home for the ship once it’s restored, says Scales.

The investor group envisions a two-stage restoration — the first to get the three upper decks back in shape as an entertainment venue, the second to find some sort of use for the lower decks, which used to contain sleeping cabins in the days when the Yugoslavian ship was part of a luxury cruise line.

“We already have two good restaurant firms interested in leasing it for five years,” Scales added in a telephone interview after recently driving to Port Colborne from Boston to take yet another look at the ship.

“Captain” John Letnik has already offered to help out, in a bid to save his life’s work from destruction.

“I got as close as I could,” said Scales, of the ship, where crews have had a more challenging time than expected removing all the asbestos. “It’s sitting lower in the water (because of ballast Marine Recycling added to boost its towing stability) and looks longer and leaner.”
Elliott said his office has also had lots of calls from folks looking to buy mementos or artifacts from the ship now that it’s in “the funeral parlour of the shipping industry.”

“Obviously, if something still has good value, it does seem a bit of a shame to scrap it,” said Elliott, who’s been overwhelmed by the unusual outpouring of affection for a ship days away from the end of its life.

“I’m not saying this is a top candidate (for saving from the scrap heap.) My personal belief is likely none of these ideas could work out in time. So we’re carrying on with the next steps in the absence of something that sounds viable.”

Source: the star. 9 June 2015

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