Monday, January 18, 2016

Kathryn Spirit - more trouble for troubled ship

Kathryn Spirit, an occasional visitor to Halifax and long a derelict in Quebec, appears be in for more trouble.
The ship has been tied up in Beauharnois, QC since 2011 where it was to be broken up. Local citizens were up in arms and the work was halted. Plans to move or remove it have come to naught. The site, just below the lower Beauharnois Lock of the St.Lawrence Seaway is a sensitive ecological zone, and the source of drinking water, only adding to the complexities.

Kathryn Spirit in June 2015.

The ship was built in 1967 by Lindolmens Shipyard in Gothenburg, Sweden as Holmsund as a forest product carrier, fitted with two traveling gantry cranes. Measuring 9,261 grt, the ship was a longtime caller to the St.Lawrence and Great Lakes where it often loaded paper pulp. In 1997 it was renamed Menominee after the Wisconsin port of the same name. It continued in the same trade to ports including Pictou, NS.

Loading paper pulp in Pictou, with its gantry arms extended.

In 2006 Canadian owners McKeil Marine bought the ship and gave it the name Kathryn Spirit. They used the ship to carry aluminum from Sept-Iles to Trois-Rivières and for northern supply. On September 30, 2007 it arrived in Halifax with the first ever domestic shipment of grain out of Churchill, MB for Dover Mills. It was back again in April 2008 with an oversize cargo.

Work became hard to find and the ship was laid up in Sorel, QC. In August 2011 it was towed to Beauharnois where it was tied up alongside the barge Jean-Raymond where Groupe Saint-Pierre had plans to scrap the ship. When this activity was forbidden Saint-Pierre sold the ship to Reciclajes Ecologicos Maritimos of Mexico.

It was that company that hired the tug Craig Trans to fetch the ship and tow it out of the Seaway. In December 2012 the tug got as far as Halifax where it was eventually abandoned by its owner and sold at auction. It is still laid up at the old Gulf Oil pier in Wright's Cove (Lower Burnside).
In June 2013 it was announced that CAI Logistics had the contract to tow the ship to Mexico, but their tug Chaulk Determination (ex Commdore Strait, ex Haida Brave - built at Halifax Shipyard in 1966) had engine trouble and eventually sank at its berth in Trois-Rivières. It was abandoned by the owner and raised at great expense with government funds and sent for scrap.

This week it was revealed that Kathryn Spirit's Mexican owners have renounced ownership [I'm not sure how that is done]. They informed Groupe Saint-Pierre, who have been maintaining the ship on their behalf, that they would no longer pay to have pumps running. The mayor of Beauharnois has stated that it is only a matter of time before the ship sinks and its contents of oily waste will spill into the waters of Lac-St-Louis.

With this disaster in the making it is high time governments stop squabbling between themselves and step in and remove the ship. Now that the Seaway is closed for the season and Lac St-Louis likely frozen over, this will not be an easy task.

Kathryn Spirit and Jean-Raymond at the site of the banned scrap yard in Beauharnois.

Alongside Kathryn Spirit, the barge Jean-Raymond has a long and very peculiar history. It needs to be scrapped too.

Construction on the barge started in 1939 at the US Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia. It was finally completed late in 1941 as Catapult Lighter No.1. Intended to launch very large amphibious aircraft (that program was cancelled), then to train pilots, its catapult was unreliable and was instead used for trials. In 1956 the US Navy sold it for scrap but it was instead converted to carry pulpwood from the Bahamas to Jacksonville, FL. as Pulpwood No.1.

When that service ended, it was sold to Canadian owners Reed Maritime and it arrived in Halifax June 24, 1979 in tow of the tug Point Carroll. Renamed Jean-Raymond it was towed out of Halifax by the tug Laval (now Océan Echo II) and went to work carrying pulpwood between Forestville and Quebec City.
It moved on to ownership by Techno-Maritime and McKeil, carrying pulpwood or wood chips between such places as Anticosti Island and Cacouna and Trois-Rivières  among others, and large project cargoes.

Finally in 2011 it was again sold for scrap to Groupe Saint-Pierre - this time apparently for keeps and was beached at Beauharnois. It was to be used as a work platform for breaking up Kathryn Spirit, then would be scrapped itself.

Although it is not likely to be a source of much pollution, its removal would have to be part of the program to demolish Kathryn Spirit.


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