Ships Actually DO End Here

There I was with my many questions about shipbreaking in Sydney harbor and all I had to do was ask my local member of parliament.

That would Mark Eyking, MP for Sydney-Victoria, who invited me to go to Sydport last Friday and take a picture of him standing next to a ship that — you guessed it — was about to be broken in Sydney harbor.

MV Princess of Acadia and the former naval auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel HMCS Preserver at the docks in Sydport. (Spectator photo)

MV Princess of Acadia and the former naval auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel HMCS Preserver at the docks in Sydport. (Spectator photo)

He was kind enough to advise me to wear flat shoes and to remind me how to get to Sydport but I churlishly sent my regrets — I don’t do photo ops. I get all worried, while obligingly pointing my camera where I’ve been told to point it, that something much more interesting is going on behind my back.

Which brings me back to the shipbreaking deal in Sydney harbor, which got done behind all our backs.


‘McKeil Docks’

Eyking was standing in for a stand-in on Friday — representing Jim Carr who is the acting minister for public works and procurement.

As Carr’s representative, he announced that the Port Colburne, Ontario-based shipbreaking concern Marine Recycling Corporation had won a $12.6 million contract to break two Canadian government vessels: the former naval auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel HMCS Preserver and the former Canadian Forces auxiliary research vessel Quest.

The work will be done at what we’re apparently calling “the McKeil Marine docks” but which should probably be called “Our docks,” since the CBRM paid $1.2 million to buy them from Jim Kehoe’s East Coast Metal Fabricators in 2015 before signing a 20-year lease deal with McKeil Marine.

Tom Ayers is reporting in LocalXpress that Marine Recycling is “leasing space at the McKeil Marine docks” which sounds like they’re sub-leasing from McKeil Marine which is an interesting turn of events — especially for the CBRM, which would thereby be losing out on both the property taxes McKeil would have paid, had it simply bought the property itself, AND the rent Marine Recyling would have paid, had it leased from the CBRM. (I checked with the CBRM to see if McKeil is indeed sub-leasing dock space. As of press time, I had not received a reply.)

If it is, then yay for us! Not every municipality can swing a deal like that.


Expert witness?

Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Quest

Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel Quest

I really hope somebody sent Mike Moore the press release about the shipbreaking. The regional manager of commercial interests for Heddle Marine’s east division was swearing up and down not a month ago in LocalXpress that there weren’t nobody breaking no ships in Sydney harbor and now it turns out they’re planning to break them right at his wharf! (Heddle and McKeil are “related but separate” companies.)

Moore assured LocalXpress in that article dated July 14 that not only were Heddle and McKeil not involved in shipbreaking themselves,  no one in Sydney was or could be involved in shipbreaking:

Moore said Sydney Harbour simply doesn’t have the facilities or infrastructure required to cut up and scrap a large ship. But it can be decommissioned and prepared for towing to another facility with shipbreaking capabilities, such as the Marine Recycling location in Ontario.

Interestingly, the tender for the disposal of the Preserver and the Quest was announced in March 2017, closed in May and was awarded in June, according to the Public Works website, so Moore was either being purposely kept in the dark by his employer or he was telling tall tales. I won’t hazard a guess as to which.


Look out, Turkey?

Marine Recycling founder and CEO Wayne Elliott, on hand for Friday’s announcement, has “long wanted to work on Canada’s East Coast” and having secured dock space in Sydney, the company is “now planning to take on its main shipbreaking competitors in Turkey,” according to LocalXpress.

Turkey’s shipbreaking yards have a better reputation for safety and regulation than do their competitors in Asia (China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) but it’s still hard to imagine Sydney harbor hosting a scene like this, shot in the shipbreaking yards of Aliağa, Turkey:

Ship-breaking in Aliaga, Turkey. Photo via the

Ship-breaking in Aliaga, Turkey. Photo via the

Eyking announced the shipbreaking contract would entail 35 direct jobs and 35 spin-offs, although he didn’t share the formula by which Marine Recycling calculates spin-off jobs and I never trust those formulas anyway, as you well know.

I also couldn’t help but notice on the Public works website that Marine Recycling currently employs “20 to 49” people total. I have to admit, that is a much lower figure than I was expecting from a company billing itself as the “oldest ship recycler in the world.” Clearly, shipbreaking is more about contract positions than full-time employment. (And therefore should feel right at home in Cape Breton.)

What I MOST notice about the shipbreaking deal, however, is that Mark Eyking, Blair McKeil, Wayne Elliott and presumably Jim Kehoe all knew it was coming but the rest of us (even poor Mike Moore) were kept in the dark until it was a done deal.

Ships, you see, are not the only thing that ends here — transparency and accountability have been pretty effectively dismantled too.


The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported, consider subscribing today!