By Rick Welsford
The former HMCS Cormorant, a retired Canadian Navy warship, is scheduled to sail from the Port of Bridgewater for the last time tomorrow. Tugboats are currently located offshore and scheduled to sail up the LaHave River and into the Port of Bridgewater within the next 18 hours. It is anticipated that ship will be removed sometime around high tide tomorrow morning, Friday, which is just a little past 6 AM. The rain forecasted for tonight should have ended by that time.
The Cormorant was the Navy’s dedicated dive ship, crewed by male and female personnel and included onboard state-of- the-art submersible vehicles. The ship was sold by the Canadian government to a Texas-based company named Dominion Shipping that immediately relocated her to the Town of Shelburne (NS.) After some time and financial difficulties, the ship was arrested. The bills were paid and a Dartmouth company, Dominion Diving, towed the ship to the Port of Bridgewater for an estimated visit of six months for repairs. Again after some time and more financial difficulties Cormorant was arrested again this time by the Port and was subjected to a court ordered sale.
A Nevada-based company, Cormorant Marine Services, purchased her and expended hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the ship operational again and it was scheduled to depart the Port prior to 2013. Instead the latest American owners informed the Port that they were planning to abandon the project and asked for assistance to sell her. It was anticipated that sale would be completed in April or May 2015 to a new European scrap company that were simply waiting for ice to clear from the LaHave River.
In March 2015, during a heavy snow storm a person broke into the ship sabotaging thru-hull fittings or valves causing the vessel to flood and roll sideways onto the wharf structure. The vessel was salvaged two months later without causing measurable pollution to the LaHave River.
The Port’s President, Mr. Richard Welsford, has worked tirelessly to have the ship removed for more than five years.
“I am not sad to see her finally going. I am sad that the ships contents including the famous SDL-1 submersible (submarine) is still on board and destined for the ship breakers in Sheet Harbour on the Eastern Shore (NS)” he’s says.
The Cormorant’s submersible and the related spare parts were to be removed by a Federal Court Order dated November 8, 2019 which appears now to have been ignored by the Canadian Government.
It is estimated that the governments costs for disposing of the ship will now be in excess of $2 million of taxpayers money. To avoid taxpayer expense, the Port had applied twice in 2017 and 2019 to Federal court to have the ship sold which was twice blocked by the Canadian government. The Port had then proposed last winter to dispose of the vessel for little or no taxpayer funds. That was rejected by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Mr. Welsford continued “an historic ship with such a famous story should have had a better ending. With many groups in the wings including the Nova Scotia Underwater Council she could have been cleaned and recycled as an artificial reef providing recreational activities and economic benefits for the community that wished to have her. That opportunity is lost now forever.”