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Decommissioning M.S. Norgoma expected to cost taxpayers $400,000

Since June 2019 Sault Ste. Marie has paid $40 a day to berth the old ship at a dock leased by Purvis Marine at Algoma Steel
M.S. Norgoma, shown in 2018

Sault Ste. Marie city council will be asked Dec. 18 to earmark $395,000 from a reserve fund to scrap the M.S. Norgoma, which has been rusting for almost five years at a private berth near Algoma Steel.

If councillors agree, the cost of decommissioning the 188-foot former package freighter/passenger ferry/museum ship will be paid to Purvis Marine, which has asked the city to also waive $5,000 to $8,000 in landfill fees associated with disposal of non-ferrous materials including wood, roofing materials, asbestos, oil, lubricants and paint.

From 1963 to 1974, the Norgoma was a car ferry, running between Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula.

Since 1975, it's been on the Sault waterfront, operating as a museum ship and raising concerns about the condition of the ship and its viability as a business.

In 2019, exasperated city councillors voted to evict the Norgoma from the berth it had occupied for four decades, to allow a dock-replacement project.

The ship was towed to a slip leased by Purvis Marine at Algoma Steel, where it remains at a discounted berthing rate of $40 a day.

"City staff have made numerous attempts to find a home for the vessel with many different proponents," says Tom Vair, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services. 

"Two agreements for the sale of the vessel were entered into (The Sweet Shop, Tobermory; Jeff Dwor, Port Colborne) but neither proponent was able to conclude the agreement," Vair says in a report prepared for Mayor Matthew Shoemaker and city councillors.

"Staff have had discussions with a number of other proponents to try and find a home for the vessel since these agreements were terminated but none of the groups expressing interest have been able to move forward.

"This is largely due to the cost of relocating the vessel, costs of refurbishment, ability to find a suitable location to dock the vessel and the requirements of host municipalities to provide funds in escrow should the vessel need to be decommissioned."

"Staff also explored the option to scuttle the vessel for a dive site. In discussions with experts in the field, it was advised that the Norgoma would require extensive environmental work to ensure the vessel is clean of oil and other contaminants."

"The probability for a viable solution appears to be very low at this point and it is not recommended to incur further expenses for insurance and docking fees," Vair said.

The proposed agreement stipulates that the Norgoma will be scrapped by Purvis "and will not be rebuilt, refurbished, resold or otherwise repurposed, whether in whole or in substantial component parts or units."

Purvis will be required to move the boat from its current berth to a scrap location as soon as possible.

Monday's city council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 5 p.m.

— SooToday