Port of Sydney: ‘Ships End Here?’

A plan, apparently 12 years in the making, to bring the shipbreaking firm Marine Recycling Corporation to the Sydport Marine Industrial Park in Point Edward seems to be becoming a reality.

I have a reader to thank for the tip: a Cape Bretoner working out West who pointed me to a pair of online help wanted ads for the Port Colborne, Ontario-based company:

I emailed Marine Recycling Corp founder Wayne Elliott to ask about the company’s plans for Sydney, but as of press time, had received no response.

However Elliott, whose firm operates two of Canada’s three shipbreaking yards, told the Chronicle Herald way back in November 2011 he was looking at establishing a facility employing “40 to 50 people” at Sydport, which would save the company the expense of towing ships to its Great Lakes locations:

We’ve been talking to the military and to the coast guard and see recycling opportunities as some of their vessels are put out of commission.

(Plans to decommission military vessels explain the need for a “controlled goods representative.” See this description of a $39 million tender won by the Nova Scotian shipbreaking firm RJ MacIsaac in 2016 to decommission the HMCS Protecteur. The same firm decommissioned the HMCS Algonquin.)

Denis Lanoe, then-chief executive officer at Laurentian Energy Corp, told the Herald in 2011 that they had been working for six years to bring “a significant ship recycling facility to Laurentian’s location at the Sydport Marine Industrial Park.” He pointed to the MV Miner, the bulk carrier that broke its line while being towed from Montreal to Turkey for scrap and fetched up on the shores of Scaterie Island in 2011, as the kind of work they could be doing.


Heddle Marine

And Marine Recycling isn’t the only shipbreaker on our horizon: Heddle Marine Services, the firm featured in this Cape Breton Post story about its “swelling” labor force (it now employs 25 people) is busy, in Sydport, “de-mobilizing” a barge from the Hebron oil field. Ship recycling is one of the activities Heddle lists in a 6 July 2017 press release announcing its cooperation with the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office (MEBO):

Heddle Marine, is a leading Canadian ship repair, marine service provider and industrial fabricator. Heddle offers a wide range of service including, dry docking, alongside ship repair, ship recycling [emphasis mine], fabrication, mechanical, machining, electrical and hydraulic support services to a diverse range of clients such as commercial vessel operators, offshore/onshore oil and gas operators, infrastructure developers, industrial operators and the Government of Canada. The company’s founding facility is in Hamilton, ON (est. 1987) and additional facilities have been established in Thunder Bay, ON; St. Catharines, ON; St. John’s, NFLD as well as in Sydney NS and Halifax, NS. Heddle consistently delivers quality service in a competitive environment. This combined with our ISO 9001:2008 certified Quality Management System, ensures that our standard of quality workmanship and safe business practices go above beyond the industry standard.

Heddle’s regional manager is Mike Moore, whom I assume (which I know is dangerous and I stand to be corrected) is the Mike Moore who was paid $54,748 by the CBRM between April and November 2014 for “consulting services” on port development. (See the port development update –page 17 — presented to council at the infamous 19 December 2014 meeting during which the sale of Archibald’s Wharf was approved).

I am guessing he is also the same Mike Moore “seconded” to the Port of Sydney Development Corporation from June to September 2015 (see the minutes from the 23 June 2015 meeting of the Port of Sydney Development Corporation board) to oversee business development.

That means Moore would have been directly involved with port development in June 2015 when the CBRM paid $1.2 million for land in Sydport to lease to McKeil Marine. Now he has become regional manager for Heddle Marine — of which McKeil CEO Blair McKeil is a director.

Source: Service Newfoundland

Also worth noting: towing decommissioned vessels to the scrapyard is one of the services offered by McKeil Marine.

I asked Heddle marketing manager Mandy Smith what “de-mobilizing” entails and if the majority of the vessels Heddle has serviced since setting up shop in Sydport in 2016 have been in for repairs or recycling. She told me she would reach out to Mike Moore and get back to me. As of press time, she had not.



MV Miner on Scaterie Island. (Photo via Nova Scotia Lands)

MV Miner on Scaterie Island. (Photo via Nova Scotia Lands)

So is Sydney harbor to become a place where good ships go to die?

If so, it will apparently be in keeping with Transport Canada’s desire to encourage more domestic shipbreaking: in 2015, the department issued a a tender for “an assessment of the current Canadian capacity for small and large vessel recycling.”

According to the Financial Post:

In Canada, some ships are not even worth towing overseas: dock yards and shore lines across the country are increasingly littered with abandoned, discarded ships, Transport Canada suggests.

‘A recent Transport Canada inventory shows 22 abandoned vessels that are over 100 ft in length and made of steel,’ says the document, Marine Vessel End-of-Life Cycle Management.

I’ve written to ask Transport Canada if that assessment has been done and if so, could I get a copy of it.

I’m guessing the shipbreaking industry, currently associated pretty exclusively with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, will not be courted by the country’s busier ports. It has a reputation as being both dangerous and dirty, although that is due in part to lax regulation in those countries — Canadian shipbreaking operations are subject to more stringent controls. Indeed, Marine Recycling Corporation on its home page invites you to contact it to discuss “The Virtues of Domestic Ship Recycling.”

And sending Canadian vessels abroad to be scrapped is not optimal. As Elliot said in this presentation about his company’s work: “Towing dead ships is the riskiest part of all ship recycling activities.”

That’s something those of us who followed the saga of the MV Miner can probably agree on, four years and $18.5 million later. (Of course, the HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Protecteur were towed from the West Coast to Nova Scotia — 7,600 nautical miles — for decommissioning, which doesn’t seem optimal either.)

Still, it’s interesting that the move to develop a shipbreaking industry has been progressing so quietly in the shadow of the more grandiose plans for our harbor. Can we be an international hub for mega-container ships, a popular destination for cruise ships and a graveyard for dead vessels?

And isn’t it worth noting that while our dream terminal seems no closer than ever to reality, the publicly funded projects undertaken in its name — the dredged harbor, the McKeil land deal — seem to be helping private companies establish a shipbreaking industry?

Featured image: Sydney harbor from Port of Sydney Prospectus.


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