BEAUHARNOIS, Qc – For seven years, the Kathryn Spirit loomed over the waterfront in Beauharnois, a rusting, abandoned cargo ship that to the town’s dismay became one of its most identifiable features.
On Friday, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that after a number of false starts, the ship has finally been dismantled and hauled away.
“Beauharnois will once again have a magnificent view on the St. Lawrence,” Garneau told reporters gathered next to the ship’s former resting place.
The only remaining sign of the Kathryn Spirit is the earth-and-rock bank built to support the ship’s shaky hull and prevent it from drifting into the river. Garneau said the bank will be gone before winter.
Built in 1967, the 150-metre-long ship was used to haul cargo. In 2011, a local company bought it with the idea of stripping it for scrap, but those plans met opposition from the province and local residents worried about the resulting pollution.
A Mexican company subsequently bought the ship, so damaged it could not sail on its own, with the intention of towing it to Mexico. But the tugboat hired to do the job was impounded in Halifax, and the company went bankrupt in 2015.
Last April, fire broke out in the engine room of the corroding ship.
Garneau said the saga of the Kathryn Spirit will not be repeated because of new legislation prohibiting owners from abandoning ships and holding them responsible for any cleanup costs. Ottawa spent $11 million to remove the ship from Beauharnois.
Beauharnois Mayor Bruno Tremblay said he is relieved the ship is finally gone, though he blamed a long back-and-forth between Ottawa and the province for delaying the removal.
Anne Minh-Thu Quach, the local NDP MP, said the episode has left “a sour taste,” and she questioned why the company that initially brought the Kathryn Spirit to Beauharnois for scrap — Groupe St-Pierre —was hired to dismantle it. It is “an insult to intelligence to reward polluters,” she said.