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Scrapping of MV Sun Sea in Nanaimo will take three months

Cargo ship that carried refugees being demolished at Nanaimo Shipyard
The MV Sun Sea, which was intercepted by the Royal Canadian Navy while attempting to smuggle asylum seekers to Canada in 2010, is being demolished at Nanaimo Shipyard. The demolition will take about three months. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

A ship that made headlines as part of a human smuggling operation to bring 492 Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Canada in 2010 is back in Nanaimo being converted to scrap metal.

The MV Sun Sea arrived in Nanaimo Shipyard at the end of August to be disassembled by Victoria-based Canadian Maritime Engineering, according to a press release issued Friday by the Port of Nanaimo, which is monitoring the demolition operation.

Canadian Maritime Engineering was awarded a $4.1-million contract to dispose of the vessel at Nanaimo Shipyard.

The MV Sun Sea, a former Thai cargo ship, was stored in Newcastle Channel after it was intercepted by the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Border Services in Aug. 2010 and was transferred to a federal facility on the Fraser River in Delta in Sept. 2012.

“The vessel arrived safely at Nanaimo Shipyard under the watchful eye of the [Nanaimo Port Authority] staff in the operations centre, who utilized the surveillance of its state-of-the-art marine domain awareness system,” said Capt. Satinder Singh, vice-president of marine operations and harbour master, in the press release.

Singh said the port harbour master’s office will provide advice about control of the ship-shore interface, removal or segregation of dangerous goods and hazardous materials, measures taken by yard workers to prevent safety or environmental irregularities, and accessibility to Nanaimo Shipyard property by unauthorized persons, during the ship’s stay in Nanaimo, which is expected to be three months.

Port of Nanaimo crews toured the vessel shortly after its arrival and have continued to monitor dismantling activities. Nanaimo Fire Rescue has also inspected the operation.

Extra precautions are being taken to avoid possible environmental intrusion from asbestos and lead-based paint and all other parts of the vessel will be recycled. The ship will be welded to a cradle before being trucked out and broken down into scrap metal.

“18,000 litres of ballast water will be pumped out using a vacuum truck floated alongside the vessel via barge, and it is being treated and disposed of as oily water as a precaution,” said Niall McEvoy, port health safety and environmental manager, in the release.

The disassembly work currently involves demolition of material on the vessel’s upper decks during daylight hours by as many as 29 workers on site.

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