Ferries' fate questioned

Brodie Thomas
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The ferries formerly known as the Caribou and the Joseph and Clara Smallwood both appear to be bound for the scrap heap.

The two old Marine Atlantic ferries, the MV Caribou, left, and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood, are seen docked in Sydport on Thursday. Steve Wadden - Cape Breton Post

Marine Atlantic sold the ferries to undisclosed buyers in August after a global marketing campaign by ICAP Shipping Ltd.

While nothing is official, ship watchers who make a hobby of photographing and tracking large vessels say data suggests the ferries are bound for Alang, India, a port infamous for its naval scrap yards and environmental hazards.

According to Greenpeace, ships brought to Alang are run aground on the beach. Workers then go aboard and dismantle the ships for scrap. Environmental groups have condemned the lack of worker safety and the poor environmental practices at Alang.

Jarrod David is one of the many east-coast ship watchers who have been keeping their eyes on the ferries. The Arichat, N.S. man said he tracked the ships online after they left North Sydney by using the website Marinetraffic.com. The website uses Automatic Identification System numbers to provide near-real time data on ships’ locations.

Mr. David tracked both ships across the Atlantic, but data is not available for the eastern side of the Suez Canal. He lost track of their exact location there.

Mr. David has also been able to keep tabs on the ferries through their IMO ship identification numbers. These numbers are assigned to ships when they are first registered and do not change.

By plugging the Caribou and Smallwood’s numbers into the website Equasis.org, he has been able to find that both ships are now owned by Best Oasis Ltd., based out of India. That is confirmed on the company’s website.

Best Oasis Ltd. Is a subsidiary of Priya Blue Industries Pvt Ltd. Best Oasis describes itself on its website as a company created to “serve its customers in the ship recycling industry,” while Priya Blue Industries describes itself as “one of the established and leading recycling units in Alang/Sosiya (Gujarat, India).”

Equasis.org lists both ferries as “to be broken up.”

Both ferries are listed on Best Oasis’ website under the heading “Achievements.”

The ships are numbers eight and nine on a list of 10 ships; ships numbered one though six have dates listed for when they were beached, many with Alang listed as the beach.

Attempts to contact Best Oasis Ltd. were unsuccessful.

Another online source, a blog called The Ship Scrapping List, lists the Smallwood as bound for Alang, India, though the website does not provide sources.

Mr. David said he is somewhat surprised the ships are being sold for scrap so soon, given that the Caribou is about 25 years old and the Smallwood is only about 21 years old.

He said older gulf ferries such as the Nautica and the Atlantic are still being used.

But, he says, there is little doubt the ships are due to be broken up at Alang.

He and other ship watchers have contacts there who will be watching for them and he hopes to get a picture if and when they arrive at the beach.

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Smallwood, Best Oasis ICAP Shipping Greenpeace Identification System Priya Blue Industries Pvt Blue Industries The Ship Scrapping List Nautica

Geographic location: India, Atlantic, Arichat North Sydney Suez Canal Gujarat

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