MARIE JOSEPH – The final verse of the ballad of the MV Caruso is being written this week, as Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) officials and their private contractors begin hauling away the wreck that has stubbornly sat against this coastal village, like a giant piece of flotsam, for years.
“The dismantling actually began on Jan. 27, starting with any polluted materials that were inside the vessel,” said Kyle Jarvis, the Coast Guard’s acting deputy superintendent of environmental response in an interview with The Journal last week.
“We’ve completed the site preparation and commenced removing any pollution and contaminated water that we find inside the vessel. The contractors have started taking apart pieces of the superstructure and creating access points into the vessel … Everything is progressing very well.”
According to the scope of work issued to marine construction company R.J. MacIsaac Construction of Antigonish, which won the federal contract to dismantle and dispose of the former Coast Guard buoy tender, formerly known as the CCGS Tupper, in November, will remove “all recoverable pollutants” and dispose of “the vessel and its contents at recognized recycling facilities.”
In a Facebook post on Jan. 30, the CCG noted, “We remind the public to exercise caution and keep a safe distance from the site. There will be heavy equipment and increased traffic in the area while our operations are ongoing.”
Added Jarvis: “This is an active worksite. We have created a work pad and around that we’ve [erected] security fencing. The highway, itself, is not blocked off. You can still drive through. We’re not blocking the slipway. We’ve taken measures to be the least invasive as possible … To the best of my knowledge, we’ve received no complaints.”
Reactions to the announcement on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page were mixed, although it was not clear if any of the posters were from Marie Joseph.
“Poor Tupper, she deserved better,” one said.
“I was in NS last summer and decided to do the Cabot trail,” another said. “On my way up I took a photo of this ship! So cool to see it again.”
Still another posted: “I was wondering when they’d get rid of [that] rust bucket!”
At least one other was cautious: “Good luck with it folks. Hope the response goes easy.”
The story of the Caruso has been fraught with controversy ever since its owner beached the behemoth here for scrap in 2011. The local man’s identity has not been independently verified by ship records (which are unavailable), the Coast Guard (which cites privacy protections), or members of the community, who are largely unwilling to discuss the matter.
An email asking Charlene Zinck — the councillor for Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s in the community — whether she’s received any reaction from her constituents to the operations was not returned by press time.
But, in September, following release of the tender for the cleanup, she told The Journal, “I know [Caruso] has been a long-standing issue. A lot of those residents will be happy to see it out of there. I think there was a big concern on what it could be doing to the waters.”
According to the backgrounder accompanying the solicitation, the all-steel vessel was built in Sorel, Quebec, in 1959. “It was decommissioned in July 1997 and sold to a private party in 1999, at which point it was renamed. In 2008, [it] experienced an interior fire, causing extensive damage. [It] was once again sold and towed to Marie Joseph, where it was beached for the purpose of demolition.”
In Feb. 2021, members of the Coast Guard’s environmental response team removed approximately 35,000 liters of fuel and oil/water mixtures from the vessel.
Said Jarvis last week: “There are weather conditions in the area to expect, obviously, but the project is expected to be wrapped up by the end of March.”