Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Where fishermen shop

A spectator reminded me that while I devoted a lot of ink to port matters in this week’s edition, I didn’t discuss plans to expand the retail space around the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion — a plan first mentioned during the Port’s February AGM.

“Fisherman’s Cove” is the name the Port has attached to a series of small shops to be located in the actual cove between the south dock and the land occupied by the Portside restaurant (or the government wharf and the old Robin Hood wharf, if you prefer).

I thought that cove already had a name and Google maps agrees with me, it’s DesBarres Cove. Although that’s a relatively new name, the Mi’kmaq presumably had a name for it long before that little bronze man from England came to town. (I realize the actual DesBarres wasn’t bronze, but his statue is my only visual reference):

DesBarres Cove


Here’s what the Fisherman’s Cove project looked like in February, in a sketch by architect Spiro Trifos:

Fisherman's Cove plan, Port of Sydney


And here’s what it looks like now — you’ll notice there are four rather than six little shops (which put me in mind of Monopoly houses). Usher explained that they are double-sided — each will house two retailers. And while the actual size of the development has contracted, the name has expanded to “Fisherman’s Cove Quay Market.”

The shops that looked to be balanced on stilts in February are now resting on infill. (Is anyone else worried that at the rate we’re going with the infill, we aren’t going to have any harbor left?)

Port of Sydney, Fisherman's Cove Quay Market

Usher says they already have interested tenants, which means they’ve been quietly approaching retailers about taking these spaces that are about to built on public land with public money. That seems a little off to me, shouldn’t they advertise publicly for tenants? That would give at least the appearance of fairness. (Although I recognize Port management would still have final say in the matter.)

Speaking of the money, apparently it’s easier to get funding for tiny little shops than for repairs to a sinkhole in the wharf, which is why, Usher says, they’ve chosen to bundle repairing the sinkhole in the south dock into this bigger project, which also involves extending the boardwalk.

I noted back in February that making the Port more welcoming to the general public is a good idea, but one that could probably benefit from some public input.

And it hadn’t occurred to me, but the spectator I mentioned earlier made an excellent point about these efforts to turn the Port of Sydney into more of a public space; namely, that we had just such a public space on the other side of the harbor, in North Sydney, and the powers that be sold it to a ship repair company.


Between the lines

I found myself nodding in agreement with District 4 Councilor Steve Gillespie when I read his comments in the Post about the lack of paint on the new roundabout at Sydney River.

Sydney River Roundabout

Sydney River roundabout (Google Maps)

I then found myself having to hand it to Transportation and Active Transit Minister Lloyd Hines for giving an appropriately roundabout answer to the question: When will you be painting the lines in the roundabout?”

With the roundabout comes a whole suite of ancillary pieces that are more than just the road as well as the curb and gutter areas. But, yes, we look after the markings on the pavement and the signage.

I am totally going to borrow this method of responding to simple questions:

Q. When are you planning to do the dishes?

A. With dishwashing comes a whole suite of ancillary pieces, like dish gathering and dish scraping. But yes, I look after washing too.

Hines continued:

It’s a matter of scheduling and we will get to it; there are 22,000 kilometres of roads in the province and we only have six or seven months to get everything done.

But Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg MLA Brian Comer — who is generally even less visible than the lines in the Sydney River roundabout — told the Post the work is being held up not for want of a paint crew but for want of a traffic control crew.

The story ends without a resolution, so in preparation for my next trip through the paintless roundabout, I decided to double-check the applicable highway rules and stumbled upon a treasure trove of roundabout information on the Department of Transport website — 26 “Common roundabout questions.”

You’ll appreciate the answer to question number three: What makes a good roundabout?

When you see the following features, you know you are driving on a well-designed roundabout:

  • splitter islands
  • a raised central island
  • traffic signs
  • line painting
  • overhead lighting



One Ocean

The other Port of Sydney item I forgot to mention this week was the sort-of triumphant return of Andrew Prossin and One Ocean Expeditions (OOE).

Andrew Prossin (detail Tom Ayers, CBC, photo)

Andrew Prossin at helipad launch, note Resolute patch on vest. (Detail from Tom Ayers/CBC photo)

OOE, a high-end polar cruise operator, sought creditor protection last year and narrowly avoided bankruptcy when the Supreme Court of BC approved its restructuring proposal in October 2020.

Earlier that same month, while in Sydney for the grand opening of our helipad, Prossin told the CBC’s Tom Ayers he hoped to be back in Sydney in the spring of 2021 with a new cruise ship.

According to a January 2021 story in the Vancouver Sun by Daphne Bramham — a rare reporter who actually seems to have spoken to Prossin but who also “travelled as a guest of One Ocean Expeditions to the Arctic in 2016 and to the Antarctic in 2018” — Prossin told the judge in BC he hoped to resume a 120- to 140-day schedule of East Coast, Arctic and Antarctic expeditions in June 2021, and that he had a group of third-party investors ready to purchase a 100-passenger, 35-cabin ship.

The restructuring proposal, which I read at the time, also said Prossin was in “discussions regarding a management contract of a notable marine facility on Canada’s East Coast,” which, given his declared intention to make Sydney his home port, had me wondering if he could possibly be referring to us.

OOE also agreed to pay $600,000 into a fund from which it would refund some eligible creditors, but according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, OOE’s insolvency trustee, the company missed its first $300,000 payment (due May 1 ) and has been granted an extension. The payment is now due July 30.

The bottom line is that rather than returning to Sydney to operate polar tours or manage the marine terminal, Usher says Prossin is returning to offer Zodiac tours of Sydney harbor. She says he’s formed a “new company” for this purpose and she told CBC Information Morning Cape Breton host Steve Sutherland she is not at all concerned about doing business with a man who sought creditor protection a year ago.


Arctic accident report

That Vancouver Sun article mentioned above contains Prossin’s versions of the events leading to his seeking creditor protection, recounting how his woes began in August 2018 when one of two Russian vessels he leased, the Akademik Ioffe, ran aground in the Canadian Arctic. (Bramham says Prossin himself was “[t]housands of kilometres south in Cape Breton” when it happened “preparing for his wedding, over which former prime minister Stephen Harper officiated on the following day.”)

Prossin claims the grounding was the fault of the vessel’s Russian crew and has filed a claim in a Canadian court and with London’s Admiralty Court to recover costs and damages resulting from the “negligent navigation” of the Ioffe.

Akademik Ioffe (Photo courtesy of OOE)

Akademik Ioffe (Photo courtesy of OOE)

The Cyprus-based company that leased the vessels to OOE says it has filed a claim with the Admiralty Court against OOE for unpaid bills. (I tried to lay out both sides of the story in this August 2019 article.) There do not seem to have been any recent developments in any of these cases, which Bramham says could take years to resolve.

But Canada’s Transportation Safety Board recently released its report into the grounding of Akademik Ioffe, and according to the Canadian Press, it says that:

…One Ocean’s expedition leader changed the voyage’s itinerary because of rough sea conditions on the morning of Aug. 28, 2018. The Canadian Coast Guard approved the change.

But the investigation found the boat went through a part of the Canadian Arctic that hadn’t been mapped to modern standards, and where none of its crew had ever been. The vessel’s master also used charts that were out of date…

With choppy waters, the report says the vessel’s helmsman, who would normally act as a lookout, had to hand steer the vessel as it entered the narrows.

“No other crew were tasked with monitoring the echo sounders and keeping lookout. As a consequence, they did not notice the under-keel water depth steadily decrease.”

The vessel then entered shallow waters where it sailed for more than four minutes before it was grounded. The investigation found the boat’s alarm system to detect low water had been turned off.

“Before the occurrence, the master did not brief the crew regarding the revised voyage plan and the vessel’s proximity to shoal hazards,” says the report.

The report found the vessel’s safety operations “didn’t meet the international standard and emergency procedures for the vessel being grounded didn’t exist in the crew’s manual.”

It also found problems with the way the crew informed passengers about what had happened:

“Many of the Akademik Ioffe’s passengers were immediately concerned when the vessel ran aground; they heard loud crushing noises and felt vibrations throughout the vessel,” the report states.

But it says the boat’s master did not sound the alarm because he thought it would create panic among passengers and interfere with the crew’s response.

The report calls for “alternative mitigation measures” to be put in place until “the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are surveyed to modern or adequate hydrographic standards.”

No one was hurt in the incident, but 81 liters of fuel oil leaked into the ocean. Reading this reminded me that I don’t much care about OOE or a Cyprus-based vessel management company but I do care about the Canadian Arctic and the idea of cruise ships sailing around its uncharted waters is really quite disturbing.