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Crash-prone ferry slated for new life as Quebec diving destination to be sold for scrap

The MV Apollo is shown in dry dock in Godbout, Que., Monday, Feb.25, 2019. The ship was to be transformed into an artificial reef but will now likely be sold off as scrap. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
The MV Apollo is shown in dry dock in Godbout, Que., Monday, Feb.25, 2019. The ship was to be transformed into an artificial reef but will now likely be sold off as scrap. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Michael Bacon/The Canadian Press

The crash-prone ferry MV Apollo, which officials on Quebec’s North Shore had hoped to sink and turn into an underwater diving attraction, is likely headed for the scrapyard.

A non-profit organization that had been overseeing a plan to give the ferry new life as a diving destination and aquatic habitat said it won’t have enough funds to complete the work.

Jean-Yves Bouffard, mayor of Godbout, Que., and head of the rebirth project, said the discovery of asbestos in the 40-year-old ship, coupled with other necessary repairs, means an additional $4 million would be needed to complete the project.

“When we started the project, we’d estimated about $1.7 million to prepare the boat, but no one had the plans for the ship,” Bouffard said Thursday.

Read more: Ferry that crashed into Quebec wharf was in lamentable condition: TSB report

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Without those plans a number of unexpected issues arose.

“We did an asbestos study and that amount (to remove it) came in at $1.7 million alone,” Bouffard said.

Already out of money with just 30 per cent of the work to create the artificial reef completed, the organization tried to secure more provincial government funding.

“We got refusals from everyone we asked,” Bouffard said.

The ship was to have been sunk this past summer and the infusion of tourists would have been welcome in the region, Bouffard said. “But there’s too much work left to do,” Bouffard said. “We’re getting ready to find a place to tow it.”

Read more: Crash-prone Quebec ferry gets new life as underwater diving attraction

The provincial Crown corporation that oversees ferry service in Quebec bought the MV Apollo without inspection for $2.1 million in January 2019 as it sought to restore service across the St. Lawrence River.

It had been purchased to replace the MV F.-A.-Gauthier, which had been forced out of service in December 2018 despite being relatively new.

The ferry, which had previously operated between Blanc Sablon, Que., and St. Barbe, N.L., crashed twice in short order — once in February 2019 at the landing dock in Godbout, which left a gaping hole in its bow, and the next month at the wharf in Matane, Que., across the river.

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The collisions forced the province’s ferry authority to remove it from service permanently, and a deal was concluded by local officials to obtain the vessel from the province for its tourism project, with the Crown corporation kicking in the $2 million it estimated would have been needed to scrap the vessel.

Bouffard says there are now several companies looking at buying and dismantling the failed ferry, which is costing $30,000 a month to keep docked at a Quebec City-area facility.