23 Mar Navy can’t even give away two old ships because it would cost too much to remove hazardous materials
David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
Sunday, Mar. 19, 2017
The Royal Canadian Navy considered giving a destroyer and supply ship to another nation instead of scrapping them, but had to nix the idea when it realized how costly it would be to remove hazardous materials from the vessels.
HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Algonquin, both decommissioned in 2015, were considered for donation, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen. But to move ahead with that plan would have required that the government spend more than $10 million on each vessel to remove all polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.
Instead of spending the $20 million, the decision was made to send the vessels to the scrap heap.
Public Services and Procurement Canada has just put out a new request for bids for the disposal of the former HMCS Preserver, a supply ship, and the former CFAV Quest, a research ship used by the Department of National Defence. Those bids are required by April 26.
But the 2015 disposal documents prepared for HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Algonquin outline the limitations of what can be done with surplus navy vessels.
The Royal Canadian Navy considered either giving HMCS Algonquin to another nation or donating it to a museum or similar outlet. “A gratuitous transfer to another nation was considered and deemed not to be a viable option due to numerous hazardous materials embedded through the ship, such as polychlorinated biphenyls,” said the navy planning records, obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information law.
PCBs were in HMCS Algonquin’s cabling and insulation. Because of international rules on PCBs, the material would have to be removed from the vessel before it could be transferred to another nation, according to the navy.
“(The ship’s) only value is for recycling of her metal,” the navy documents stated, adding that the government would receive $400,000 to $600,000 for the scrap metal.
HMCS Protecteur, commissioned in 1969 and damaged by a major fire in 2014, also had PCBs on board and faced similar issues.
The Navy also decided against donating the ships to non-profit groups or museums. That was deemed to be “the most risky and costly option” to the federal government since not only did the military have to remove hazardous materials but would still have a degree of responsibility over the vessels.
“If (Protecteur) is to be displayed alongside a given jetty and poor maintenance results in the ship sinking, the Navy will likely have to assist financially or physically in the recovery of the ship,” the navy warned.
The disposal documents also pointed to past problems. HMCS Fraser was transferred to a private organization in 1998 but legal and other issues forced the navy to buy the ship back. It was eventually dismantled in 2011.
During the disposal of the former HMCS Annapolis, the navy had to pay $1 million to remove PCBs. It was then sold for $20,000 and was used as an artificial reef, according to the navy documents.
The submarine Onondaga was transferred to a museum but, after the boat rolled on its side, the navy had to send a team of experts to deal with the problem. During that 2008 operation, a navy diver narrowly escaped being crushed, the documents point out.
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