Over the Waves: M/V Miner

Hello all! This week, I picked a much more recent ship with a story that came to an end just a month or so ago. This ship served a long career as a Great Lake freighter before being retired. Unfortunately, instead of finding her way to a scrapyard in Turkey, she was thrown up on the rocky shores of Scatarie Island, Nova Scotia. This week, we look at the story of the M/V Miner.

Ship Stats

  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Length: 222.5 metres
  • Beam: 23 metres
  • Weight: 17,831 tonnes
  • Draught: 8.2 metres
  • Year: 1966

Built by the firm Canadian Vickers at their yard in Montreal, QC in 1966, the Miner was initially christened under the name M/V Maplecliffe. Constructed to carry cargo such as grain, iron ore, and coal, she was made in the same image as most Lakers, except without a bow thruster.

M/V Canadian Miner in her glory days. Photo from Boatnerd.com

Commissioned by Hall Navigation, the Maplecliffe sailed from 1966-1988, when Hall went out of business. Their assets were absorbed by Canadian Steamship Lines, which included the Maplecliffe and her sister ships. Renamed the M/V LeMoyne, she was in the service of CSL until 1994, when she was sold to Upper Lakes Shipping and finally renamed M/V Canadian Miner.

Upper Lakes used her along the Great Lakes shipping routes, and at one point used the Canadian Miner to help with a fundraiser at Georgian College. The Owner's Stateroom that had been included in her construction was very rarely used. To help with the fundraiser, Upper Lakes offered a trip on board the ship in the Owner's Stateroom.

Finally, in 2011 Canadian Miner was sold for one last time to the Turkish-owned Arivina Navigation SA. Her name was changed to the simple M/V Miner, and in early September 2011 she was put under tow of the Greek tugboat Hellas, heading to her last port of call - a scrap yard in the Aegean Sea.

The Miner on the shore of Scatarie Island. Photo from Cape Breton Post.

The beginning of the trip went well - the tug and her load cleared the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Gulf. As they turned and headed along the Cabot Strait, they ran into trouble.

Gale force winds whipped up and strained the line between the Hellas and the Miner. It didn't take very long until the line between the two gave way, and the Miner was pushed further and further away from the Hellas. After a couple of hours adrift in the Cabot Strait, the Miner came to an abrupt stop on the rocky shoreline of Scatarie Island, Nova Scotia.

Now things became complicated. The Hellas was seized upon its arrival in Sydney, NS, and substantial bond was placed on her. Her Greek owners were forced to pay millions of dollars to have her released. The Government of Nova Scotia reacted quickly - it had designated Scatarie Island as a protected nature and wilderness site, and they were concerned that the ship could pollute the area. They turned to the Federal Government for support, arguing that the ship being in transit fell under the Transport Minister's portfolio. Initial estimates put the clean up cost at around $5 million if the wreck was towed, $25 million if she was broken up on site. They hoped that the Federal Government would help to cover the costs of the cleanup. Ottawa disagreed, insisting that the cleanup was not their responsibility.

The Miner deteriorating on the rocks of the Island.

As the two sides debated back and forth, it became clear that some sort of measures were needed before the winter set in. An emergency salvage operation was put to tender by the Nova Scotian Government, and a company was awarded the contract. They went in with the instructions to remove any contaminants, fire extinguishers, and floating debris that was inside the ship. After the salvage was completed, winter settled in on the island, and violent storms smashed waves against the ship and drove her harder into the rocky shore. The resulting damage meant that there was no way that the ship could be refloated. The only option now was to find a company that could come in and safely and securely break the ship apart on site.

In 2012, the Nova Scotian government received a plan from a salvage company out of New York that had been hired by Arivina Navigation SA to come in and dismantle the wreck. The plan was fairly straight forward - heavy equipment would be placed on the island and the ship would be broken down into manageable pieces. The sections would be loaded onto a barge and shipped to Sydney, where the crew would complete the breakdown process.

When the crew arrived on site, however, it appeared this wouldn't be a simple salvage operation. The emergency salvage operation had been a little less "salvage" and a little more "strip". The new crew alleged that a lot of the contaminants and debris has been left behind, and that instead the emergency crew had stripped the wreck of almost $500,000 non-ferrous metals, including the brass portholes. The salvage company and the Nova Scotian government began going back and forth over if the wreck could be broken down within budget and how much more work it would be. Finally, the contract expired and suddenly they were back where they had started - a deteriorating wreck on shore, a community becoming more and more concerned about the environmental toll, and no salvage company to do anything about it.

Finally, in 2014, there was a breakthrough. RJ MacIsaac Construction, a Cape Breton-based company was awarded the salvage contract. They put forward a plan to set up a base camp on the island and build an access road from the wrecksite to the main road. An isolation wall would be constructed around the wreck so that heavy equipment outfitted with shears and long reach arms could operate strictly on the land. The hope was that it would make the operation more efficient and the job faster to complete. In addition it would create some jobs for the area, and the company agreed to work with local fishermen, starting the salvage operation after lobster season ended.

The Miner as of January 2015. Photo from CBC.

In July 2014, asbestos was found during the salvage process. Originally estimated to be around 6.6 tonnes, 30 tonnes of the carcinogenic substance was found, primarily in the form of wrapping around the plumbing throughout the super structure. Finally, in January 2015, CBC reported that the salvage operation was almost completed and on schedule to be completed in February.

I don't have any up-to-date information on whether or not the salvage was completed on time. If anyone from the area knows if the wreck is still there or if they met their deadline, please leave a comment below and let me know!

That's all for now everyone. Have a great week!