The shipyard in Hay River is a busy – and changing – place these days.
Not only is there a lot of work underway, but an ongoing clean-up is improving the look and functionality of the yard.
John Vandenberg, the assistant deputy minister of Infrastructure, succinctly explained the reason for the clean-up during a tour on March 22 with Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann.
“It’s supposed to be a shipyard, not a junkyard,” Vandenberg said, noting it had an “enormous” amount of material, including out-of-service tugboats, that was collected by the defunct Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) during its decades of operation.
NTCL’s assets were purchased by the territorial government in late 2016 and the operation became known as Marine Transportation Services (MTS).
“One of the good news stories is I think over the past couple of years we’ve done a huge clean-up,” said Vandenberg, noting that a lot of scrap metal and hazardous waste was left in the shipyard and much of it has already been removed.
The removal effort has included some old tugboats.
As of late March, Pat Williams, the assistant director of marine maintenance with MTS, said two tugboats have been cut up – the Radium Express and the Pelican Rapids.
“Pelican Rapids was the one that years ago NTCL gave to the Fire Training Centre,” he said of what used to be arguably the most visible old tug in Hay River.
Williams noted several other tugboats will be cut up for scrap, including the Lister, the Horn River and the Husky.
One tugboat, the Radium Franklin, is being donated to the Hay River Museum Society.
Plus, seven or eight barges have also been cut up so far.
Thousands of drums were also removed last year and about 20 large tanks, along with smaller ones.
Williams said about 1,400-1,500 tonnes of scrap steel have been removed from the yard in the past two summers, and a couple of more summers might be needed to finish the work.
There is an estimated 2,000 tonnes of scrap metal left to be removed.
That includes the large, out-of-service barge Canmar – an estimated 1,000 tonnes by itself – which has been sitting on the ground at the shipyard after having been deposited there by the flood of 2008.
“So it’s going to leave in pieces now,” said Williams.
Vandenberg noted the environment is being protected during the clean-up.
Not all of the old and out-of-service tugboats will be removed from the yard.
“Anything that stays we’re going to have a purpose for, either in parts or in maybe ultimately restoring and putting into operation,” said Vandenberg. “We’re not going to keep anything that we don’t have any plans for.”
While the clean-up is ongoing, the shipyard has also been busy with several projects.
Since the fall, a major overhaul has been underway on the tugboat Jock McNiven.
Vandenberg noted that $3.7 million was contributed from the federal Low Carbon Economy Fund for the overhaul.
“Part of the deal with that is the boat is going to be made much more efficient with higher horsepower, but far less fuel use, much less greenhouse gas emissions and much less petroleum product consumption,” he said.
The mid-life refit of the 45-year-old vessel, which should be complete by this coming fall, is itself employing about 30 people.
Regular maintenance work is also underway on the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Dumit, which should be back in the water by July.
In addition, a $200,000 new office building is under construction for the MTS barging terminal.
Williams noted that, because of the three projects, close to 40 people are employed who weren’t employed last winter, and only five or six of those workers aren’t residents of Hay River.